About ProgressiveCowgirl

Colorado native, young professional, progressive cowgirl. 4-term FPE (aka masochist).

Tuesday Open Thread

“They say motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing. That’s why we recommend it daily.”

–Zig Ziglar, motivational speaker, died 11/28/12

Marijuana Task Force On the Job

The following is based largely on personal conversations with reliable sources who attended both subcommittees; regrettably, my work schedule did not allow me to attend.

Colorado’s Amendment 64 task force, convened by Governor Hickenlooper, has begun the long, hard work of implementing Amendment 64 in a way that protects both voters’ intent and the other, varied interests of Colorado. Two subgroups met on the first Thursday of 2013 to discuss health and safety; regulation; labeling; and related issues.

The members of the task force are:

Rep. Dan Pabon, appointed by the incoming Speaker of the House;

Sen. Cheri Jahn, appointed by the incoming President of the Senate;

Rep.-elect Dan Nordberg, appointed by the incoming House Minority Leader;

Sen.-elect Vicki Marble, appointed by the incoming Senate Minority Leader;

David Blake, representing the Colorado Attorney General;

Kevin Bommer, representing the Colorado Municipal League;

Eric Bergman, representing Colorado Counties Inc.;

Chris Urbina, the Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment;

James Davis, the Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Public Safety;

John Salazar, the Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture;

Ron Kammerzell, the Senior Director responsible for the Colorado Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division;

Christian Sederberg, representing the campaign to pass Amendment 64;

Meg Sanders, representing the medical marijuana dispensary and cultivation industry;

Craig Small, representing marijuana consumers;

Sam Kamin, a person with expertise in legal issues related to the legalization of marijuana;

Dr. Christian Thurstone, a person with expertise in the treatment of marijuana addiction;

Charles Garcia, representing the Colorado Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice;

Larry Abrahamson, representing the Colorado District Attorney’s Council;

Brian Connors, representing the Colorado State Public Defender;

Daniel Zook, an at-large member from outside of the Denver area;

Tamra Ward, representing the interests of employers; and

Mike Cerbo, representing the interests of employees.

In the subgroup dedicated to labeling and regulation, fiscal considerations were of paramount importance. Committee members indicated that the existing staffing and budget for medical marijuana regulation, investigation, and enforcement may be inadequate to cope with recreational legalization in the event that commercial sales of marijuana can be permitted, as required by Amendment 64. The committee discussed the regulation of alcohol as compared to medical marijuana regulation, and considered which regulatory framework would be closest to ideal regulation of recreational marijuana use.

[more after the jump]

The regulatory subgroup was businesslike and eager to tackle the challenges of implementing Amendment 64. Task force members made clear to members of the public that Amendment 64 is the law of the land, and that the committee would not debate the wisdom of marijuana legalization. Discussion was tightly focused on specific steps toward regulation and implementation, with the task force facing a late February deadline to produce its recommendations.

Another subgroup focused on health and safety issues related to the recreational legalization of marijuana. In this hearing, members of the public were livelier, with public comment from both marijuana proponents and opponents heard. However, as in the regulatory committee, the task force encouraged discussion to focus on the harm mitigation possible while respecting Amendment 64 as the law of the land, not on whether or not marijuana should be legal. Although passionate, discussion remained civil and focused, thanks in large part to the businesslike tone set by the task force itself.

Marijuana activists described their relief and gratitude at seeing, in some cases, decades of work validated. Those concerned about public safety and health were, by and large, respectful, diplomatic, and caring. Common ground was present, with some legalization advocates conceding that marijuana is not entirely harm-free–although, of course, they were equally ready to point out that alcohol, tobacco, and even soft drinks may do more harm to their users than marijuana.

Cynicism is a healthy response whenever a governmental body convenes to reluctantly implement policy that was taken out of policymakers’ hands by the voting public. As marijuana activists remember, Colorado’s medical marijuana industry has been hamstrung at various turns by stifling regulatory burdens (and sometimes by the misbehavior of obnoxious, impossible to work with marijuana activists). However, at this early date, most activists are prepared to compliment Governor Hickenlooper on convening a task force that appears so far to be moderate, responsible, and hard-working. A final judgment on the task force can only be made after its recommendations are delivered, but at this early date, optimism and a businesslike demeanor prevail among advocates on both sides of the marijuana issue.

Santa Visits Colorado Politicians

It’s amazing what you can learn from an exhausted reindeer stopping by the barn for a hot mash before making his long journey back to the North pole. Straight from the reindeer’s mouth (by way of a certain Progressive CowPony acting as translator), a special Christmas bulletin on Santa’s visit to Colorado politicians’ households. Although some of Colorado’s elected officials landed on the naughty list, Santa (concerned that a lump of coal would be mistaken for a lobbyist’s gift) dropped personalized presents down the chimney for several figures of political prominence. Here’s a sampling:

Governor John Hickenlooper: Cheetos and goldfish.

State Senator Brophy: An industrial strength slingshot, so those melons won’t go unmolested after gun control passes.

Secretary of State Scott Gessler: One threatening letter, which may be used to escape responsibility for one future abuse of public funds.

Congressman Jared Polis: A partridge in a pear tree. He already had everything else…

Representative Max Tyler: Family-sized box of Enstrom’s milk chocolate toffee.

Congressman Ed Perlmutter: Winter coats for his staff, currently freezing in their mandatory ponchos.

Representative Jonathan Singer: Get-out-of-trouble-free card permitting ONE, and ONLY one “joint committee” or “high stakes” pun about Amendment 64 on the House floor.

Brian Watson: Free entry into an adult spelling bee.

Lang Sias: A newer edition of Photoshop for better sign clean-up the NEXT time he’s heralded as a “rising star” when jumping into a clearly lost race against a solid incumbent.

Attorney General John Suthers: A raise, pre-wrapped for regifting to the next person to hold his seat.

Representative Dan Pabon: Diapers and one good night’s sleep.

Secretary Ken Salazar: Large punch bowl, to be filled and kept handy for the next time a journalist upsets him. What are you talking about? He just offered that reporter a festive beverage! See, there’s another gallon of it right here, have a cup.

Congressman Mike Coffman: Body double willing to occasionally talk to CD6 constituents.

Denver Post Editorial Board: A list of people who may possibly run for Congress in 2014, besides the incumbents–with two years’ lead time, who knows, maybe they’ll endorse one.

If anyone else has Christmas intel on what Colorado’s boldface names found under their trees, post it in the comments…

Light Up (If That’s Your Thing)

POLS UPDATE: AP’s Kristen Wyatt via the Washington Post:

Hickenlooper, a Democrat, opposed the measure but had no veto power over the voter-approved amendment to the state constitution. He tweeted his declaration Monday and sent an executive order to reporters by email after the fact. That prevented a countdown to legalization as seen in Washington, where the law’s supporters gathered to smoke in public…

Hickenlooper also announced a state task force Monday to help craft the marijuana regulations. The 24-member task force includes law enforcement, agriculture officials and marijuana advocates.

The governor admonished the task force not to ponder whether marijuana should be legal.

“The Task Force shall respect the will of the voters of Colorado and shall not engage in a debate of the merits of marijuana legalization,” the executive order read.

See the list of legalization task force members after the jump.


Update: In Hick’s office’s own words

Gov. John Hickenlooper today signed an Executive Order that makes an “official declaration of the vote” related to Amendment 64. That declaration formalizes the amendment as part of the state Constitution and makes legal the personal use, possession and limited home-growing of marijuana under Colorado law for adults 21 years of age and older.

It is still illegal under state law to buy or sell marijuana in any quantity and to consume marijuana in public or in a way that endangers others.

The latest, from Twitter:

Enjoy your day, folks. If you find yourself hungry, there’s a great new bakery around 8th and Colorado, Leaf and Crumb, that could use some business.  

Rep. Dan Pabon, appointed by the incoming Speaker of the House;

Sen. Cheri Jahn, appointed by the incoming President of the Senate;

Rep.-elect Dan Nordberg, appointed by the incoming House Minority Leader;

Sen.-elect Vicki Marble, appointed by the incoming Senate Minority Leader;

David Blake, representing the Colorado Attorney General;

Kevin Bommer, representing the Colorado Municipal League;

Eric Bergman, representing Colorado Counties Inc.;

Chris Urbina, the Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment;

James Davis, the Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Public Safety;

John Salazar, the Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture;

Ron Kammerzell, the Senior Director responsible for the Colorado Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division;

Christian Sederberg, representing the campaign to pass Amendment 64;

Meg Sanders, representing the medical marijuana dispensary and cultivation industry;

Craig Small, representing marijuana consumers;

Sam Kamin, a person with expertise in legal issues related to the legalization of marijuana;

Dr. Christian Thurstone, a person with expertise in the treatment of marijuana addiction;

Charles Garcia, representing the Colorado Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice;

Larry Abrahamson, representing the Colorado District Attorney’s Council;

Brian Connors, representing the Colorado State Public Defender;

Daniel Zook, an at-large member from outside of the Denver area;

Tamra Ward, representing the interests of employers; and

Mike Cerbo, representing the interests of employees.

American Muslims to GOP: Change or Lose Our Votes, Permanently

“Do I really need to spell this out for you?” is traditionally a rhetorical question.

But, when the subject at hand is American Muslims’ votes, the GOP consistently answers, “Yes.” Whether Republicans are inviting internationally infamous Islamophobes to speak at the Western Conservative Summit, or turning a deaf ear when voters reject Islamophobic GOP incumbents, they simply don’t seem to see any reason to mend fences or bury hatchets. In 2012, 85% of Muslim votes went to President Obama, a statistic Republican commentators prefer to use in their attacks on the President, rather than as the wake-up call it should be to their party.

A coalition of American Muslim organizations has formed to send a message directly to the GOP, starting with a full-page ad in the conservative Washington Times, spelling it out for Republicans.

According to the Council on American Islamic Relations (in a press release received by email):

That open letter to the GOP states in part:

“We are writing to offer an open invitation to reassess your party’s current relationship with American Muslims. As with other demographics, American Muslim support for Republicans has dropped precipitously in recent years. This shift away from the GOP is not set in stone, but its future direction is dependent on choices your party makes.”

In other words: Put Islamophobes in the corner, or face a future where Muslims are permanently stationed outside your “big tent,” voting consistently for Democrats.

“We don’t want your dirty, stinking votes,” apparently worked so well for the Republican Party with women, Hispanics, and the so-called 47% that they’re hammering the drum again, this time with regard to the Muslim vote. Which, if you’re a conservative voter, is a real shame. Many conservative values are well-aligned with American Muslims’ beliefs, including a preference for smaller government, private charity over social welfare programs, pro-life views, and support for individual gun ownership rights. Catholic Online, a Catholic news site, warned Republicans earlier this year that Muslim voters could decide the election, noting that Muslims don’t identify with a single political party but are willing to swing strongly in favor of an individual candidate:

[Romney’s anti-Muslim remarks] might suggest that Obama would be the default choice for many Muslims, but that isn’t quite true. Many are upset at his failure to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, despite his promise to do so.

They are also displeased with his lackluster handling of domestic issues, particularly the economy. Muslim-Americans live and work, and pay taxes, the same as all other Americans, which in turn means that they share precisely the same anxieties about everything from gas prices, to the housing market, to employment.

It doesn’t have to be said that Muslims are Americans too — but unlike many Americans, they do not identity with one party or another, which makes them politically difficult to court. Unlike most demographics, it cannot be assumed they are in one camp or another.

That might just be the one thing former President George W. Bush knew that the rest of his party didn’t. In 2000, Muslims chose Bush over Gore. As a candidate, Bush fundamentally understood that his “compassionate conservative” values were well-aligned with American Muslims’ worries and hopes. Post-9/11, however, the Republican Party fell all over itself in its eagerness to forget everything conservatives had learned about the Muslim vote.

Even if Republicans are ready to listen, it’s a long road back. Just take a gander at these comments on a story reporting Muslims’ overwhelming support for the Democratic incumbent President. One example:

Of course they [chose Obama], he’s exempted them from Obamacare and opened all the borders so they can send their terrorists in, in droves, to build up their training camps. Sharia law is near and dear to the President’s heart and he can’t wait to hear the “sweetest sound on earth” the mus lem call to prayer ringing out at our nations capitol. Bet he’s got a prayer rug made of the aborted fetuses he so loves.

Cheap wins purchased with Islamophobic rhetoric have reached their expiration dates. Giuliani is irrelevant. Bachmann is heading there fast. Allen West is gone for good, and we can only hope he’ll take fellow Floridian Pamela Geller with him.

The Republican Party exploited anti-Muslim sentiment when America was grieving, and in doing so infected its own base with racist, xenophobic sentiment so vituperative, and so thoroughly bolstered over the years by mainstream Republican operatives, that it may now be ineradicable. CAIR says Muslims’ move away from the GOP “is not set in stone,” but even if Republicans spend the next four years backing away from religious hatred, it’s a long, uphill road back to the Bush coalition.

Nice (Former) Ink, Dude

Remember this guy?

Here’s a refresher:

Eric Hartsburg will no longer be the “Romney face-tat guy” in about a year–the length of time it’ll take for him to remove this tat in 7-10 sessions with “Dr. TATTOFF.” Hartsburg says he’s abandoning the ink because of his candidate’s post-election behavior, especially comments claiming Obama bought minority, youth, and low-income votes with “gifts”:

“It stands not only for a losing campaign but for a sore loser,” Hartsburg said. “He’s pretty shameful as far as I’m concerned, man. There’s no dignity in blaming somebody else for buying votes and paying off people. I can’t get behind that or stay behind that.”

Hartsburg, a wrestler, will regret the loss of a certain notoriety which expanded his fight opportunities–but he also admits that, “You can’t walk around with a big ‘R’ on your face.”

Keep that in mind, Republicans, if Rubio runs in ’16…

Lakewood Police Officer Fatally Shot Near Sloan’s Lake

UPDATE: Lakewood police have confirmed that Jim Davies, 35, was killed by friendly fire while responding to a report of shots fired.

Fox 31 is reporting that a Lakewood police officer was killed this morning near Sloan’s Lake. The officer has not been identified, but was described as in his thirties and had been with the department for six or seven years.

The incident, involving a “multitude” of gunshots, occurred in the 1900 block of Eaton Street. Three suspects have been taken into custody, but were not identified.

“This is the worst of the worst,” Lakewood Police spokesman Steve Davis said, fighting back his emotions at a 7 a.m. press conference. “This is the first Lakewood Police officer we’ve lost in the history of the department. And that goes back to 1969.”

Arizona Shooter Sentenced to Life Imprisonment

24-year-old Jared Lee Loughner will spend life in prison without the possibility of parole for the Arizona shooting that left six dead and many wounded, including then-Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. Loughner was sentenced under a plea agreement supported by victims, including Giffords.

The hearing marked the first time victims – including Giffords – could confront Loughner in court.

Her astronaut husband, Mark Kelly, did all the talking for her, as the couple looked at Loughner and told him how his deadly rampage at the former congresswoman’s political meeting had upended her life.

“Her life has been forever changed. Plans she had for our family and her career have been immeasurably altered,” Kelly said. “Every day is a continuous struggle to do those things she once was so good at.”

Loughner showed no emotion, and looked at the other victims. His mother sobbed nearby.

“Mr. Loughner, you may have put a bullet through her head but you haven’t put a dent in her spirit and her commitment to make the world a better place,” Kelly said.

Loughner, who is mentally ill, apparently did not believe Giffords was alive until he was forcibly medicated in a Missouri prison facility. After treatment, he was deemed competent to stand trial. However, his condition might not have withstood the lengthy trial necessary for prosecutors to seek the death penalty:

Christina Pietz, the court-appointed psychologist who treated Loughner, had warned that although Loughner was competent to plead guilty, he remained severely mentally ill and his condition could deteriorate under the stress of a trial.

Loughner’s plea bargain only covers the federal charges filed in the case. The state has not yet charged Loughner. If Pima County prosecutors choose to file state charges, the death penalty again becomes a possibility for the apparently remorseless shooter, who showed no emotion when confronted by his victims.

Voters Reject Islamophobic Candidates

In 2012, voters were generally more progressive than their elected representatives. Two states legalized recreational use of marijuana. Four states voted in favor of marriage equality. The list goes on. Around the country, voters took matters into their own hands, often over the objections of elected officials.

Simultaneously, right-wing Republicans’ years-long campaign of Islamophobic fear-mongering failed spectacularly at the polls. Around the country, candidates bet on turning out the Republican base with threats of “Sharia law” and “radical Islam.” Voters turned out, but they delivered a resounding rebuke to candidates known for their vituperative anti-Muslim rhetoric.

Underdog challenger Patrick Murphy toppled Allen West by less than 2,500 votes. Congressman West is an Islamophobe so vicious that he stooped to attack the country’s only Muslim Congressman:

West used his time in Congress to press his case that Islam is “not a religion” but a “totalitarian theocratic political ideology,” and that terrorism is inherent to the faith-not radical Islam, but Islam, writ large. He’s accused a fellow Member of Congress, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), a Muslim, of “represent(ing) the antithesis of the principles upon which this country was established.”

The Daily Beast

More below:

In the Arkansas state house, a Republican challenger, Charlie Fuqua, flamed out spectacularly in his race against incumbent James McLean. Fuqua has advocated the deportation of all Muslims.

Also in Florida, state representative Adam Hasner, BFF of infamous Islamophobic nutcase Pamela Geller, lost his Congressional bid. Apparently, voters weren’t convinced by Geller, who accused Hasner’s critics of terrorism:

As for Islamic apologists like Alex Seitz-Wald, it is only a matter of time before he is getting measured for a suicide vest.

Hasner had made headlines in Florida for skipping the state legislature’s opening prayers when they were delivered by an imam. Hasner was also friendly with Geert Wilders, the Western Conservative Summit keynote speaker known for his belief that “moderate Islam” does not exist, and his opposition to the construction of mosques.

Completing a sensible voting trifecta, Florida said no to a school board candidate who promised to keep Muslim speakers out of schools.

Meanwhile, in Illinois, Representative Joe Walsh was defeated by 20-year military veteran and double amputee Tammy Duckworth.

Watch Walsh on video accusing his Muslim neighbors  of “trying to kill Americans every week”:

Minnesota representative Chip Cravaak, a key supporter of Representative Peter King’s (R-NY) anti-Muslim hearings, also lost his seat. Regrettably, King himself was reelected, along with national disgrace Michelle Bachmann (R-MN). Bachmann was recently rebuked by John McCain for her Islamophobic comments about Huma Abeydin.

On the national ticket, voters reelected a sitting President with a Muslim-sounding name who was photographed in a kufi and subjected to Islamophobic slander as a result.

In other Muslim-sounding-name news, Maggie Hassan became the nation’s only Democratic female Governor. (She’s a member of the United Church of Christ.)

Here at home, Robert Ramirez piled on the “Obama iz sekrit Mooslem” train and was subsequently defeated. Representative-Elect Tracy Kraft-Tharp ran a spectacular campaign focusing on jobs, education, and common sense. Ramirez indulged in fear-mongering in the election’s final days and lost his seat.

Although nationally notable anti-Islamic crusaders King and Bachmann prevailed, they’ll return to Congress without key allies like West and Cravaak.  In a brave, new congressional world, where even Speaker John Boehner has already promised to work with the reelected President Obama, congressional Islamophobia’s moment has passed. If representatives reelected to the 113th Congress continue to push religious discrimination, rather than focusing (as Speaker Boehner has said he’ll do) on avoiding the fiscal cliff and implementing long-term financial reform, their constituents may not forgive them again.  

2013 Legislative Session Predictions Thread

Democrats have the Presidency, Colorado’s Governor, and majorities in both Colorado houses. So, what will they do with that, for better or for worse? Predict away, Polsters. Those who make wildly incorrect predictions owe those who make correct predictions drinks at a to-be-discussed fall 2013 meetup.

[DEVELOPING] Shots Fired at Obama Campaign Office

9 News reports that shots were fired today at a Denver field office of Organizing for America. The West 9th Avenue office was fired on at about 3:00 PM. Thankfully, nobody was inside–presumably, staff and volunteers were out canvassing for Obama. [EDIT: 9News is now reporting that people WERE inside the office, but that there are no injuries.]

Police say that they have a “vehicle of interest.”

The attack comes a mere day after the First Lady’s Colorado visit.

Republican “Rising Star” Has Money for Republican Party, None for Taxes

Remember the Republican first-time candidate, Brian Watson, who implicitly called one of Colorado’s most beloved statesmen a jackass on his mailer–and managed to make a grammatical error, too?

Well, maybe he couldn’t afford the extra e to spell “asses,” because it turns out Watson’s in debt, deep, to the second-worst folks to be indebted to, after the Mob. He owes $279,000 in taxes, according to KVDR’s Eli Stokols.

Watson, who often cites his business ownership as an asset in the tight HD3 race, blames mismanagement of a business he purchased for his tax woes. In a letter to investors in Aspen Moving and Storage (accountable for nearly $150K of the debt), Watson cited the purchase of that company as an investment he now wishes he hadn’t made.

Frank McNulty, desperate to hold onto the Speaker’s gavel, defended Watson and attempted to spin his nearly $280K tax debt as a positive:

“Compare that to Daniel Kagan who hasn’t earned a dime in his own life, who has investments offshore,” McNulty told FOX31 Denver, perhaps in a preview of attacks to come from Watson’s campaign.

“I think the contrast bodes well for Watson to represent that district because he actually knows the struggles his constituents are going through.”

“The Speaker’s accusations ring hollow, as usual,” said House Minority Leader Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, who noted that Kagan saved his parents’ textile company and managed it for 10 years.

Actually, Mr. Speaker, I’d imagine that very few of Watson’s prospective constituents own multiple properties on which they’ve failed to pay more than $279,000 in taxes. The luxury of buying a business, ignoring your tax debt, and explaining it all to your investors in an email blaming mismanagement (when you own the company!) isn’t one that’s open to most of the 99%.

Maybe if Watson’s elected, although it hardly seems likely, he can arrange for the piddly salary and per diem paid to state representatives to go straight back to the Colorado treasury?

Of course, it’s hardly likely that Watson would prioritize his spending that way, considering how he’s using his corporate cash while the $279,000 tax debt looms overhead:

Despite the debts, Watson’s company, Northstar Commercial Partners, made a political contribution, a $500 donation to the Colorado Republican Party on April 27, 2012, which FOX31 Denver found by doing a simple search on the Secretary of State’s TRACER website.

Brian Watson: Can’t pay his taxes, but can cut a check to the Colorado Republican Party. Some rising star, Repubs.

Tanc in the Tank for Amendment 64

Tom Tancredo, that unlikeliest of progressive allies, has reiterated his opposition to marijuana prohibition (first announced, if I recall correctly, in a Denver newspaper editorial) and officially endorsed Amendment 64. His endorsement appeared originally in the Colorado Springs Gazette on September 21st, 2012, and has been preserved for posterity on the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol website. An excerpt:

I am endorsing Amendment 64 not despite my conservative beliefs, but because of them.

Throughout my career in public policy and in public office, I have fought to reform or eliminate wasteful and ineffective government programs. There is no government program or policy I can think of that has failed in such a unique way as marijuana prohibition.

Our nation is spending tens of billions of dollars annually in an attempt to prohibit adults from using a substance objectively less harmful than alcohol.

Yet marijuana is still widely available in our society. We are not preventing its use; we are merely ensuring that all of the profits from the sale of marijuana (outside the medical marijuana system) flow to the criminal underground.

Regardless of what ultimately happens on the federal level, we have an opportunity to stop pouring money into a failed system in Colorado. According to the Colorado Center on Law and Policy, we current spend anywhere from $25 to $40 million dollars per year arresting, citing, processing, and prosecuting marijuana offenders throughout the state. A recent report from the Colorado Center on Law and Policy found that savings achieved through eliminating these law enforcement costs, combined with increased tax revenues generated from the legal production and sale of marijuana, would net the state $60 million in the first year alone.

Curiously, this endorsement puts Tancredo somewhere to the left of Governor Hickenlooper, who is still frequently described as a Democrat.

Anti-Muslim Filmmaker Outed as Alleged Coptic Christian Crook Nakoula Bassely Nakoula

Update (thanks to BlueCat): Oh, and he’s also a meth cooker.

Who made the film, “Innocence of Muslims,” that stirred up protests so violent they cost America’s ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, who was enormously popular with Libyans, his life?

Yesterday, that man was “Sam Bacile,” who described himself as a Jew who had raised $5 million for the film from wealthy Israeli donors.

Today, the Associated Press has identified “Bacile” as Nakoula Bassely Nakoula, a Coptic Christian convicted of financial crimes including federal bank fraud. Convicted in 2010, sentenced to 21 months and nearly $800,000 restitution, and ordered to avoid using computers for five years without permission from his parole officer, Nakoula apparently still managed to post his inflammatory video clip on YouTube. As recently as Tuesday, the AP says, “Sam Bacile” was still posting angry comments on YouTube.

The AP describes Nakoula’s crimes in detail:

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Leigh Williams said Nakoula set up fraudulent bank accounts using stolen identities and Social Security numbers, then checks from those accounts would be deposited into other bogus accounts from which Nakoula would withdraw money at ATM machines.

It was “basically a check-kiting scheme,” the prosecutor told the AP. “You try to get the money out of the bank before the bank realizes they are drawn from a fraudulent account. There basically is no money.”

Nakoula, apparently a seasoned con artist, didn’t stop at defrauding banks, or even at parole violations. He even scammed the actors and crew members who helped him make the movie which cost four Americans their lives. According to cast and crew members, Nakoula (in his “Sam Bacile” persona) cast them in a movie that did not include a Mohammed character and was not anti-Muslim:

The entire cast and crew are extremely upset and feel taken advantage of by the producer. We are 100% not behind this film and were grossly misled about its intent and purpose. We are shocked by the drastic re-writes of the script and lies that were told to all involved. We are deeply saddened by the tragedies that have occurred.

An actress in the film, talking to Gawker’s Adrian Chen, claims that all of the film’s offensive dialogue was over-dubbed, not spoken by actors:

“It was going to be a film based on how things were 2,000 years ago,” Garcia said. “It wasn’t based on anything to do with religion, it was just on how things were run in Egypt. There wasn’t anything about Muhammed or Muslims or anything.”

In the script and during the shooting, nothing indicated the controversial nature of the final product, now called Muslim Innocence. Muhammed wasn’t even called Muhammed; he was “Master George,” Garcia said. The word “Muhammed” was dubbed over in post-production, as were essentially all other offensive references to Islam and Muhammed.

Nakoula’s scurrilous attempt to blame Jews for his production was yet another lie–in fact, he speaks Arabic (as shown on the “Sam Bacile” account’s YouTube comments) and told his actors he was Egyptian:

Garcia said Bacile told her he was Egyptian on set. Bacile had white hair and spoke Arabic to a number of “dark-skinned” men who hung around the set, she said. (A Bacile associate also told The Atlantic he wasn’t Israeli or Jewish.)

Violent protests also occurred in Egypt, where Coptic Christians like Nakoula were likely endangered along with Americans. Nakoula, a California resident, managed the impressive feat of risking the lives of two sets of his own countrymen in one fell blow.

Christian activist Steve Klein, who was involved with “Innocence of Muslims,” admitted to the AP that he knew “Bacile” was not Jewish, and that numerous individuals from the Middle East were involved with the phone:

About 15 key players from the Middle East – from Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Pakistan, Iran and a couple Coptic Christians from Egypt – worked on the film, Klein said.

“Most of them won’t tell me their real names because they’re terrified,” Klein said. “He was really scared and now he’s so nervous. He’s turned off his phone.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups, said Klein is a former Marine and longtime religious-right activist who has helped train paramilitary militias at a California church. It described Klein as founder of Courageous Christians United, which conducts protests outside abortion clinics, Mormon temples and mosques.

Klein also admitted that Nakoula and Klein knew their film would provoke violence

Klein told the AP that he vowed to help make the movie but warned the filmmaker that “you’re going to be the next Theo van Gogh.” Van Gogh was a Dutch filmmaker killed by a Muslim extremist in 2004 after making a film that was perceived as insulting to Islam.

“We went into this knowing this was probably going to happen,” Klein said.

So, let’s put the pieces together:

15 people from the Middle East worked with an Egyptian convicted felon and a Christian paramilitary militia leader on a coordinated project.

They used false names and kept even those who worked with them in the dark about their goals.

Although the main players were Christian and residents of the United States, they attempted to cast blame on Jews and Israel for their work.

They lied about where their money came from and, in at least one case, stole.

They knew as they worked on this project that the likely outcome would be violence, including violence against Americans, and including violence in the home countries of many of the key players.

After completing their work, the main player immediately went into hiding, lied about his age, lied about his nationality, and asked for police protection. Meanwhile, his deputies covered his trail and assisted in his lies.

What about this is not terrorism?

The PATRIOT Act was sold to America as legislation that would give Homeland Security officials the broad authority they needed to capture and punish those who seek to influence American policy by creating chaos, violence, disorder, and destruction. It includes specific provisions to punish those who finance terrorism and those who incite others to commit terrorism. In fact, broader latitude to punish incitement to terrorism was one of the key–and one of the most controversial–facets of the legislation that we were told we needed, without which we were told terrorists could cause the deaths of Americans and walk free.

Nakoula Bassely Nakoula, if he has done all that he is alleged to have done, is a terrorist who knowingly took premeditated action to incite violence against Americans and Christians. Further, he attempted to endanger the lives of Jews and Israelis as well by implicating them in a project that does not appear to have had the involvement of a single Israeli or Jew. Thirdly, he endangered the lives of his own cast and crew by editing his film and dubbing over its audio to make ordinary actors appear to be saying inflammatory and hateful things. This heartless felon and convicted fraudster was willing not only to put at risk his own life (albeit not without a plan to obscure his identity and blame others) but the lives of people who didn’t even know what they were working on.

Sounds like someone we all remember–someone who, like Nakoula, was safely in hiding in another country while his own countrymen died for his hateful and ignorant beliefs. Someone who, like Nakoula, did not hesitate to put others in harms way to protect himself. Someone who, like Nakoula, with premeditation and intent, caused the deaths of Americans. Someone who, thank God, is no longer a threat to the United States or to his own people, having been killed by US Navy Seals.

Homeland Security authorities know where Nakoula is, as he has reportedly requested police protection. One can only hope that the police are also “protecting” this terrorist from fleeing the country before someone reads the USA-PATRIOT Act, notices that he meets every qualification for incitement to terrorism in it, and places him under arrest.  

Regent Ludwig, Reluctant Fake Cowboy

Incumbent Regent Stephen Ludwig, despite having beaten his 2012 opponent once already, has a challenging race to run. Not only does most of the electorate have no idea what a regent does, it’s a statewide race. According to The Westword, Ludwig is currently working on an ambitious tour of Colorado’s 64 counties in ten days.

Fortunately, the grind hasn’t affected Ludwig’s sense of humor:

I’m Progressive Cowgirl, and, having seen one too many politicians sporting brand-new cowboy boots at the start of election season, I approve of this message.

Romney Offended by the Guy Who Came Out and Said It

POLS UPDATE: FOX 31’s Eli Stokols drives home the local angle:

Congressman Paul Ryan sponsored House Resolution 3, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortions Act”, which, for a time, included Akin-like language limiting the definition of rape and incest in certain cases as it relates to whether a woman could get an abortion with federal Medicaid funding.

Ryan wasn’t alone.

Three of four Colorado Republicans in Congress also added their names to H.R. 3 as co-sponsors: Congressman Cory Gardner of Yuma, Congressman Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs and Congressman Mike Coffman of Aurora. [Pols emphasis]

Under H.R. 3, Republicans had proposed that the rape exemption be limited to “forcible rape,” effectively ruling out federal assistance for abortions in many rape cases, including instances of statutory rape, many of which are non-forcible…


Mitt Romney is distancing himself from the “legitimate rape” remarks by Missouri candidate for the US Senate, Todd Akin (R-MO).

“Congressman’s Akin comments on rape are insulting, inexcusable and, frankly, wrong,” Romney said. “Like millions of other Americans, we found them to be offensive.”


Oddly enough, Mitt Romney remains somehow unoffended by his running mate, who worked with Akin to introduce the term “forcible rape” to the legislative lexicon last year.

Federal law prevents federal Medicaid funds and similar programs from paying for abortions. Yet the law also contains an exception for women who are raped. The bill Akin and Ryan cosponsored would have narrowed this exception, providing that only pregnancies arising from “forcible rape” may be terminated. Because the primary target of Akin and Ryan’s effort are Medicaid recipients – patients who are unlikely to be able to afford an abortion absent Medicaid funding – the likely impact of this bill would have been forcing many rape survivors to carry their rapist’s baby to term.


Just like on race, poverty, labor, and immigration, the GOP nominee’s policy on women’s rights goes something like this: Act on the basis of your most regressive beliefs, but if any of you idiots slip up and talk about those beliefs, we’ll skewer the guy who said it. But if you can shut up and legislate, you’re on the presidential ticket.

Let’s get one thing straight, here: There is not ONE piece of legislation regarding rape that Akin would push as a Senator which Ryan would not cheerfully support as Vice President. Ryan believes that abortion should only be legal in cases where it is the only way to save the mother’s life. So what’s “inexcusable” about Akin?

Well, that he said it without coating it in sugary language about the rights of the fetus. His words were inexcusable–not his proposed treatment of women, which is exactly the same as Romney’s and his running mate’s.

Here’s something to give you the shivers:

Many United States rape statutes formerly precluded the prosecution of spouses, including estranged or even legally separated couples. In 1975, South Dakota removed this exception. In 1993, North Carolina became the last state to remove the spousal exemption. However, as of 1999, 33 of 50 U.S. states regarded spousal rape as a lesser crime. The perpetrator may be charged with related crimes such as assault, battery, or spousal abuse. There are other criminal charges that may be inapplicable to married couples. For example, in the U.S., there is a marriage exemption to the charge of statutory rape even if one of the spouses is under the age of consent in the jurisdiction where the sexual act takes place.


Let’s talk about those “legitimate” rapes. What could be harder to prove as a “legitimate rape” than spousal rape, which isn’t even legally defined as  “as bad” as other rapes in some US states? Even if anti-abortion laws contain rape exceptions, what do you think the chances are that a woman could prove in a court of law that her lawfully wedded husband impregnated her when he raped her, not on some other occasion when they had consensual sex? And do so before reaching the point of viability outside the womb, when she couldn’t abort anyway?

Mitt Romney isn’t offended that Akin would take women back to a day not so long ago–circa 1993, in fact–when all a husband had to do to win the “Should we have kids now?” argument with a reluctant wife was rape her while she was ovulating.

He’s just offended that Akin gave the game away before Romney and Ryan were in office to actually do it.

Romney’s Justice Advisory Committee Chairman a Chilling Reminder for Women

Robert Bork’s nomination to the US Supreme Court was rejected by a vote of 58 to 42 in 1987, before I was born. Until today, I’d never heard his name, much less been aware that Time called him “one of history’s most controversial Supreme Court nominees.

Today, I stumbled across RomneyCourt.com and saw the frightening claim that Romney would receive help picking Supreme Court justices from a judge who “ruled that a corporation is free to tell women to be sterilized or be fired.”

“That’s obviously an exaggeration,” said I, wisely, and rode forth to The Google. To The Google I did submit the query: Robert Bork sterilization women employees. The Google intoned:

In 1978, the plant instituted a “fetal protection policy” which barred all unsterilized women between the ages of sixteen and fifty from working with twenty-eight of the twenty-nine chemicals used at the plant; the chemical with which women were allowed to work was lead, and eventually the company offered women workers in that division the option of sterilization if they wanted to keep their jobs.  Five women had the surgery done in Parkersburg.


The union’s case ended up before federal judge Robert Bork, who, in 1984, found in favor of the company. Bork ruled the fetal protection policy wasn’t hazardous because the women had the option of surgical sterilization. The civil rights case was dropped after 3 1/2 years of pre-trial proceedings. In 1983, the women accepted a settlement from the company.

I asked The Google, “Really?” and The Google, in its infinite wisdom, did highlight the reliability of the source, with its prized .edu domain. Defeated, I faced the truth: It wasn’t a left-wing talking point. A chairman of Romney’s Justice Advisory Committee really does think it’s okay for corporations to tell women to be sterilized or be fired.

Your uterus: Now your employer’s property, unless you’d rather be unemployed and exist as a “welfare queen,” in the parlance of Reagan, who nominated Bork to the Supreme Court.

And it doesn’t end there.

From the New York Times, circa 1987:

In 1963 and 1964, as a 36-year-old law professor, Mr. Bork wrote impassioned attacks on legislation to desegregate lunch counters and other public accommodations. He argued that the bill, by invading the liberty of proprietors to turn away blacks, was based on ”a principle of unsurpassed ugliness.” Not until 1973, when seeking Senate confirmation as Solicitor General, did he publicly renounce this view, stated with such unsurpassed surliness.


Not until two weeks ago did Judge Bork accept the Supreme Court’s gradual, belated extension of equal protection to women. As recently as June 10, just before his nomination, he told an interviewer that he thought the 14th Amendment, which covers all persons, ”should have been kept to things like race and ethnicity” and not extended to women. Judge Bork’s conversion on a subject of such importance came so late that it’s hard to know how seriously to take it.

After the initial shock wore off, a realization came over me: I was born right when America started assuming by default that women have rights. Had Bork been nominated a decade earlier, even the Times might not have objected so much to his views on women. In fact, it wasn’t until after my birth that the Court righted Bork’s wrong–and after five women became permanently unable to themselves give birth as a result of Bork’s decision:

The 1991 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that declared fetal protection policies to be a violation of CIVIL RIGHTS laws came too late for five women from West Virginia who were forced by their employer to choose between undergoing a sterilization procedure to avoid health risks associated with their higher paying jobs, remaining fertile but moving to lower paying jobs, or quitting their jobs altogether (International Union, UAW v. Johnson Controls, Inc., 499 U.S. 187, 111 S. Ct. 1196, 113 L. Ed. 2d 158 [1991]). The women worked at an American Cyanamid factory in Willow Island, a poor region where decent-paying jobs were scarce. They were all among the first women to work in these factories, which, before 1974, had employed only men.

We may not be equal today. We may be fighting yet another personhood amendment–one which would likely bring “fetal protection policies” back to conservative workplaces, since without abortion or even many common methods of birth control, only sterilization could prevent a woman from unknowingly harming a “person” inside her body–but we are more equal than we were. Wage gap (and “yes, Virginia, there is a gender wage gap“) aside, we can generally work in the fields we prefer. The glass ceiling is thinner than it was. 40% of the CEOs I’ve worked under in my lifetime have been women. It is generally assumed that women have rights.

And this is, pardon my French, a recent fucking development.

And Mitt Romney isn’t on board with it. Neither is the guy who’d be picking his justices.

I’ve known for a long time that we can’t take reproductive rights for granted; even if I hadn’t, the last year’s worth of legislation would prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt. But I think this is the first time it’s really hit me that we can’t even take being considered persons (unlike fetuses, of course!) for granted.

I’m reading a mystery series currently, one which was written over a period of more than 30 years, following its main character from the 1950s to 1980s. In the first few books, women’s rights aren’t addressed; wives keep house and cook with no complaint. In the 1960s, they begin to agitate for “women’s lib,” but the author carefully constructs scenes in which the “women’s libbers” express irrational, hysterical anger and are shut down by coolly logical men. By the 1970s the main character begins to become sympathetic, even calling women “Ms.” instead of “miss” or “Mrs.”, but continues to mock the idea that the special privileges of women (like their absence from dangerous industries) are in any way sexist, believing instead that these special favors are offered by men to compensate women for their misfortune in being born female in a society where the lives of men are generally easier. It’s not until the last few books that the detective really comes around and begins treating women like he treats men. He includes them in intellectual conversations, and at one point is employed by one. (Granted, she turns out to be a murderess, but you can’t have everything.)

I’m enjoying the books, but complained peevishly to a friend, “He sure doesn’t seem to like women much!” then amended it to, “Well, he has yet to include a female character who has any interests aside from her husband and children.” My friend–substantially older than myself–pointed out with a chuckle that the author is recording an era in which women were not expected to have interests apart from their husbands and children.

What a dull, miserable life that would be. Who would I be if I hadn’t started a job I loved when I was 19, barely out of high school? Who would I be if I hadn’t grown up fearlessly scolding Governors and Congressmen for the standardized testing that annoyed me in elementary school? What in the world would I do with myself all day, staring at four walls and occasionally scrubbing them, if my parents hadn’t expected me to get an education?

This year, I’m as old as my mother was when I was born.

She is a member of the first generation to benefit from women’s lib. She went to college and started a business. Yet, for her, those rights were new. If she’d worked for anyone other than herself, she would have encountered glass ceilings. When my mother heard her mother-in-law recount the discrimination that venerable lady faced as a woman attending college even though she had children to think of (gasp!), that was less a galling historical anecdote than something she nervously hoped she wouldn’t face after giving birth to me.

I am a member of the first generation never to wonder if we’re really as good as men. I am a member of the first generation to grow up expecting to fulfill our educational and career aspirations with no significant interference based on gender. That’s not to say I haven’t run into sexism or suffered as a result of it–I have–but it’s never thrown me off track in pursuing my ambitions, nor have I ever been seriously worried that it would. Misogyny is a nuisance, not a real factor in my everyday life.

Mitt Romney and Robert Bork could, quite feasibly, not just turn the clock back to my mother’s world, but turn it back to the world of my grandmother, where a woman in college is expected to pursue her Mrs., not her PhD. Where a woman’s interests ought to be limited to husband and children, but a little job on the side to keep her busy is all right, if her husband approves and it doesn’t endanger any fetuses or any hypothetical future fetuses.

This isn’t an exaggeration. It’s a real threat, and one that was only recently beaten back. For most of my life, it’s been socially unacceptable to suggest that women are perpetually pre-pregnant incubator units. Suddenly, the ghosts of sexism past have risen, and they’re running for President–freely, with very little interference from the same public that so vehemently rejected Bork in 1987.

People older than me: What the hell is going on? Where did our progress go? Has my entire lifetime been a brief period of female freedom and prosperity that is about to end?

People my age: If you need convincing that it’s time to wake up, I’ve got a mystery series to lend you. Let’s get the fuck out on the streets and make Robert Bork a household name again, before Mitt Romney does that for us by nominating one of Bork’s suggested justices to the court that will, in the next few years, be revisiting the question of whether or not slightly more than 50% of us are allowed to live as free, equal human beings.

Spread of Islamophobia Continues to Endanger American Lives

Update: I am dismayed to report that a member of this community responded to this post by sending me a PDF file in Arabic and English alleged to be the “Muslim Brotherhood strategy” circa 1991. Whether or not this is an authentic document–I’m in no way enough of an expert to opine on that–the use of it and the language in the email, “read it and weep,” indicates that there is at least one active member of our community (I will not name him, though he appears to have used his real name) who believes that the mistreatment of an ethnic and religious group of millions is justified because he possesses a spurious document from 1991 that reads like what Rush Limbaugh thinks a mean ol’ Muslim jihadist would say. It may be authentic. Lawd knows, there are some CRAZY Muslims in the world.

But more importantly, this incident serves to illustrate that what to some of us seems like stating the obvious–everyone has a right to religious expression, and racism is wrong–is actually kind of a scary thing to do these days. Kind of like saying during the McCarthy era that you don’t think every member of the American Socialist Party should be executed. Kind of like saying during Japanese internment that you think some Japanese immigrants are loyal Americans. Kind of like saying during the Roosevelt era that you’re willing to do business with Jews.

I suppose this Pols member expected me to read his document, and (in his words) weep for America, then retract my support for American Muslim communities. Nothing doing, sir. I support the civil rights of every American and I support the US Constitution as a document that may not be bent or broken based on the prejudices of an era. Good day to you, sir, and Ramadan mubarak to the American Muslim community.

[Original post below]

Pols community, we really, really need to talk about Islamophobia. Not just bitch about it or link to examples of it–we need to start talking about what we can do about it. Because this shit is getting scary, and Colorado is right in the middle of it.

Exhibit A: The Western Conservative Summit, where John Andrews and Kevin Grantham praised Dutch reactionary Geert Wilders for his hateful rhetoric condemning Muslims.

Exhibit B: Last week, Romney chose Denver to meet with Lt. General William Boykin, a fellow so Islamophobic that he got a scolding from then-President George W. Bush for his outrageously nasty comments in 2003.

Thankfully, Michelle Bachmann presumably has absolutely no intention of moving here, and Pamela Geller is installed in New York for the foreseeable future. However, while those two WHARGARBL about Muslims on the eastern side of the country, Romney is declining to distance himself and is instead meeting with one of their fellow hatemongers, right here in the Centennial State.

And what happens when a concerted hate campaign against a minority becomes an acceptable platform item for a mainstream political party?

After the jump…

(Warning: This is a long post. There’s a little levity, but mostly it’s scary and sad. If you are already scared enough and/or sad enough, skip to the end for what we can do.)

We all know about the Sikh temple shooting and Joplin mosque burning this week. But did you know that…

Muslims in Minnesota weren’t allowed to build a worship center in an office building’s basement. Citizens called Islam “evil” and “violent” at a meeting inviting public comment on the proposal. Those evil, violent Muslims in the area responded by hosting a free iftar meal for their neighbors, hoping to share their cultural traditions with people of all faiths.

In Tennessee, Muslims on their way to worship will pass 13 white crosses installed by a pastor who says, “We wanted them to see the crosses and know how we felt about things.” The installation of the crosses was a final gesture following community members’ unsuccessful efforts to block the mosque, including arguing in court that Islam isn’t a religion. No plans to set them on fire on Muslims’ front lawns have been announced (yet).

The number of hate groups in America has doubled since 2000, while “The Patriot Movement,” a radical anti-government militia, has grown by 755% in three years.

Rhode Island Muslims asked for police protection after a man smashed their sign with a hammer and stole a piece of it, immediately following the torching of Joplin’s mosque.

Arson and vandalism at mosques have occurred recently in at least seven states.

Even Whole Foods–usually considered a progressive employer–allegedly fired a Muslim employee for planning to travel for Hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca that most devout Muslims attempt at least once in their lives.

Hey, America, remember this shining chapter in the history of the land of the free and home of the brave?

During internment, various anti-Japanese groups formed up and down the West Coast.  In Seattle , the two most prominent anti-Japanese groups were the Remember the Pearl Harbor League (RPHL) and the Japanese Exclusion League (JEL).  Though they formed during the war, their most active periods, at least according to newspaper accounts in the Seattle Times, Seattle Post Intelligencer, and the Seattle Star, were during the debate over resettlement at the end of 1944 and in early 1945.

The anti-Japanese groups used methods such as flyers and word of mouth to gain members.  They also used newspapers to generate publicity by writing letters to the editors. The groups’ leadership and members came mainly from organized labor, veteran’s organizations, and agricultural interests who felt threatened by competition with Japanese and Japanese-Americans. Through their political connections, they were able to get partial support from Seattle’s mayor, Washington State ‘s governor, and its politically powerful Congressmen-Warren Magnuson and Henry “Scoop” Jackson. These groups’ leaders used their public meetings to preach an anti-Japanese ideology that while supposedly about American national security on the surface, often suggested that issues of race and economics were driving opposition to Japanese and Japanese-American return.  

Or perhaps you recall this one?

During the 1930s and 1940s, right-wing demagogues linked the Depression of the 1930s, the New Deal, President Franklin Roosevelt, and the threat of war in Europe to the machinations of an imagined international Jewish conspiracy that was both communist and capitalist. A new ideology appeared which accused “the Jews” of dominating Franklin Roosevelt’s administration, of causing the Great Depression, and of dragging the US into WW2 against a new Germany which deserved nothing but admiration. Roosevelt’s “New Deal” was derisively referred to as the “Jew Deal”.

In a 1938 poll, approximately 60 percent of the respondents held a low opinion of Jews, labeling them “greedy,” “dishonest,” and “pushy.” 41 percent of respondents agreed that Jews had “too much power in the United States,” and this figure rose to 58 percent by 1945. In 1939 a Roper poll found that only thirty-nine percent of Americans felt that Jews should be treated like other people. Fifty-three percent believed that “Jews are different and should be restricted” and ten percent believed that Jews should be deported. Several surveys taken from 1940 to 1946 found that Jews were seen as a greater threat to the welfare of the United States than any other national, religious, or racial group.

Let’s face it: Whenever a single racial or religious group in America is targeted for harassment for reasons of “national security,” it leads to the loss of American lives and the restriction of Americans’ civil liberties. And that’s happening now. It’s been happening since September 11th, 2001, and right-wing politicians are only getting bolder and more blatant as they face no personal or political consequences for their behavior. This is not new–it’s just the new Southern Strategy, another way of keeping the marginalized on the margins while predominantly white, predominantly wealthy Christian Republicans capitalize on their suffering.

So what the hell do we do about it?

(Start reading again here, if you don’t need convincing and didn’t want to read the disturbing/windbaggy parts!)

Go to Dinner

It turns out there’s an organization working in Colorado that’s done a lot of good in the name of unity between Abrahamic (Christianity, Judaism, Islam) religions. It’s called the Multicultural Mosaic Foundation, and not only did they find Congressman Mike Coffman, they actually got him to smile for this photo with Turkish Ambassador Namik Tan:

And it turns out they’re inviting you to dinner this Sunday to hear speeches on fasting in Abrahamic religions. Featured speakers will represent Judaism, Catholicism, and Islam. Dinner is served at 8:10 PM, in keeping with the Muslim tradition of iftar (fast-breaking) at sunset during the month of Ramadan.

Date: Sunday, August 12th 2012

Time: 6.30pm Reception

Venue: Multicultural Mosaic Foundation 2600 S. Parker Rd. Building 2 Suite 100, Aurora, CO 80014  

Attending an iftar meal is an annual opportunity to learn about Muslim communities and traditions, and this venue seems especially conducive to the asking and answering of questions about religion. This is my first encounter with the organization, so I’m afraid I have no information beyond what’s publicly available, but I urge those who are able to attend.

How about the media?

The Denver newspaper has, surprisingly, done a good job lately of covering Muslim issues in Denver, with articles pointing out that Colorado Muslims attended vigils for the Aurora shooting victims and that Muslim community leaders are wondering why it’s so much easier to catch people stockpiling weapons when they’re brown.

But they haven’t mentioned this Lt. General Boykin thing, and I think they should. If you do too, send them a letter about it. Feel free to use/modify my boilerplate, below:

Dear Editors:

As a Coloradan and an American, I am concerned about the effects of Islamophobia on my neighbors and community. I was dismayed to learn that Governor Mitt Romney met with Lt. General William Boykin during his visit to Denver. Boykin’s vituperative rhetoric about Islam earned him a rebuke from George W. Bush in 2003, but in 2012 the presumptive Republican nominee included Boykin in a secret conference. During the same week, Romney also refused to distance himself from Michelle Bachmann’s hateful comments about American Muslim Huma Abedin.

In the wake of recent attacks on Sikh and Muslim places of worship, I call on Colorado’s politicians and community leaders to reject Islamophobia and to advocate for the First Amendment rights of all Americans. Especially during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, free and open religious expression should not mean risking one’s life.

Stay Informed

Subscribe to email from CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations. They seem to send one or two news updates by email each day. It’s a high volume compared to other email newsletters, but many of these stories will not be reported in national media or by Colorado outlets. Facing the problem is the first step toward solving it, and we all owe our Muslim, Sikh, and otherwise non-white, non-Christian neighbors our attention to the increasing risks their racial and religious groups face.

“Ramadan mubarak”

Ramadan continues through August 18th. If you have a friend, colleague, or neighbor who is fasting for Ramadan, wish them a “Ramadan mubarak.” It’s also polite to offer to host an iftar meal, if you’re close to someone who is fasting–but if it’s your first time, ask your friend’s advice on what to serve, as Islam involves some dietary restrictions (just like Judaism and, to some extent, Catholicism).

Talk to your place of worship

I’ve been occasionally attending interfaith lectures hosted by a Methodist church near me. If you attend religious services, ask your spiritual leader to consider inviting a guest lecturer from the Muslim community to speak to interested congregants. If you need a lecturer suggestion, email me and I’ll put you in touch with the pastor who’s been coordinating these things.

Know the facts

Things to mention when you talk to someone who seems to be uneducated about our Muslim friends and neighbors:

Of more than 14,000 murders in the United States last year, experts attributed zero to Islamic extremism.

Although Muslims do not worship any entity other than the Almighty God (the same God as Jews and Christians), they acknowledge Jesus Christ as a religious leader and praise him in the Quran.

Muslims (like Jews and many Christian denominations) are obliged as part of their faith to give to charity. This practice of zakat is one of the “five pillars” of Islam.

There are more verses in Jewish religious texts than in Muslim texts limiting the rights of women. Most restrictions on the rights of women in Islamic states stem from cultural norms that predated Islam but have become intertwined with religious law in those countries.

Pakistan, Turkey, Indonesia, and Bangladesh, among other predominantly Muslim countries, have elected female heads of state (the USA, of course, has not). Islam was the first Abrahamic religion whose religious laws give women inheritance rights and the right to own property independent of their husbands.

Share some Resources

CAIR has two incredibly valuable resources for Muslims coexisting with neighbors unfriendly to their religious expression:

Community Safety Toolkit

Guide to Combating Islamophobia

These resources encourage proactive cooperation with law enforcement, hosting open community events, documenting incidents of discrimination in the workplace, and other basic strategies that can help American Muslims stay safe and discourage Islamophobia.

Okay — I’ve said my bit, and I’m shutting up now, until the next time the outrage at how my fellow Americans are being treated bubbles over. I may be preaching mostly to the choir here, but I hope this post moves at least a few people to take action on behalf of American Muslims’ civil rights and essential safety. And if you’ll be going to the Mosaic dinner, please comment so I know to look for you! <3

This post was written with help from a few friends met through Reddit’s r/Islam, who kindly suggested organizations to follow and vetted my Ramadan suggestions for cultural compatibility. Any remaining cultural ignorance is my own and I would appreciate being corrected/educated.

Thank Goodness Mitt Romney Opposes Wind Energy!

Chevron’s refinery in Richmond, CA, caught fire last night, forcing area residents to “shelter in place” and sending dozens to hospitals with smoke inhalation. According to the local news affiliate:

The fire started at the refinery’s “4 Crude Unit” at 6:15 p.m. Monday, according to a statement from Chevron. The company said a small leak in the diesel processing unit grew and caught fire.

A shot time later, at least two steady eruptions of flame were visible from CBS 5 cameras. A pair of thick plumes of smoke were also rising into the skies of the East Bay well into the night.

Refinery officials were quick to apologize for “inconveniencing our neighbors.” Meanwhile, a midnight deadline expired for Chevron to pay $19 billion in damages to Ecuador for environmental damages in the Amazon region.

Oil prices are expected to rise as a consequence of the refinery fire, although Chevron will presumably continue to earn $85 million per day in profits (not gross earnings, profits) — an amount which could pay many times over for the hospital treatment of Bay Area residents suffering from smoke inhalation, but which presumably won’t.

Meanwhile, Mitt Rommey continues to explain to wind energy supporters in his own party why wind energy tax credits are really dangerous to America. Because, you see, the free market should be allowed to pick the winners in the energy wars. And if a few grandmothers with lung disease in the Bay Area are losers? Well, you can’t make a free market without killing a few 99%ers.

Romney Adds More Evidence to the “Maybe He’s Just a Sociopath?” File

Mitt Romney is a confusing candidate sometimes. And by sometimes, I mean most of the time. Maybe all the time. From “corporations are people” to calmly dissing London’s handling of the Olympics, in London, during the Olympics, the presumptive Republican nominee frequently demonstrates a bizarre and perplexing disconnect from the feelings or reactions of others. His lack of empathy, even years later, for family dog Seamus is equally curious, as is his claim he doesn’t remember bullying a gay classmate.

The latest Mitt-doesn’t-get-people video features the Republican candidate walking away from a dying man who is a wheelchair user, apparently unaffected by the young man and unwilling to answer his question:

I tend to shy away from any pop-psychology attempt to diagnose from a distance, but this is becoming impossible to ignore. Romney does not react to other people in the way that most individuals–even politicians, and even extremely wealthy individuals–do. Could Romney simply be one of the 2% of human beings (according to Lt. Col. Dave Grossman in On Killing) who are without what we call a “conscience?”

Diagnostic criteria follow:


The World Health Organization’s International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, tenth edition (ICD-10), defines a conceptually similar disorder to antisocial personality disorder called (F60.2) Dissocial personality disorder.[4]

It is characterized by at least 3 of the following:

Callous unconcern for the feelings of others.

Gross and persistent attitude of irresponsibility and disregard for social norms, rules, and obligations.

Incapacity to maintain enduring relationships, though having no difficulty in establishing them.

Very low tolerance to frustration and a low threshold for discharge of aggression, including violence.

Incapacity to experience guilt or to profit from experience, particularly punishment.

Markedly prone to blame others or to offer plausible rationalizations for the behavior that has brought the person into conflict with society.

There may be persistent irritability as an associated feature.

The diagnosis includes what may be referred to as amoral, antisocial, psychopathic, and sociopathic personality (disorder).

The criteria specifically rule out conduct disorders.[5] Dissocial personality disorder criteria differ from those for antisocial and sociopathic personality disorders.[6]

It is a requirement of ICD-10 that a diagnosis of any specific personality disorder also satisfies a set of general personality disorder criteria.


The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition (DSM IV-TR), defines antisocial personality disorder (in Axis II Cluster B) as:[1]

A) There is a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others occurring since age 15 years, as indicated by three or more of the following:

failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest;

deception, as indicated by repeatedly lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure;

impulsiveness or failure to plan ahead;

irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults;

reckless disregard for safety of self or others;

consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations;

lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another;

B) The individual is at least age 18 years.

C) There is evidence of conduct disorder with onset before age 15 years.

D) The occurrence of antisocial behavior is not exclusively during the course of schizophrenia or a manic episode.

The individual must be at least 18 years of age to be diagnosed with this disorder (Criterion B), but those diagnosed with ASPD as adults were commonly diagnosed with conduct disorder as children. The prevalence of this disorder is 3% in males and 1% from females, as stated in the DSM IV-TR.

Obviously, none of us is Romney’s psychologist, but there’s a lot here that rings true about behaviors like his teenage bullying habits, his mistreatment of a family pet, and his actions at Bain Capital. There’s also his complete willingness to change his beliefs when it’s politically advantageous to do so. Most candidates flip-flop here and there, but retain a few core beliefs that are especially important to them. Romney appears simply to calculate the political benefit of a stance and then adopt it.

I have a personal interest in personality disorders and have done extensive reading on the subject of antisocial personality disorder. Forensic psychology is a career path I considered seriously. In my reading on the subject, I have found it consistently noted that many individuals with characteristics consistent with this personality disorder are extremely successful in business and do not commit the violent acts typically associated with the popular perception of “sociopathy.” Lt. Col. Grossman even notes in On Killing that these individuals are highly valuable in certain parts of the military, so long as they are willing to memorize and follow rules. In The Sociopath Next Door, Martha Stout describes several cases of successful executives whose sociopathy is an advantage, as they are not burdened or stressed by their decisions in the way that a typical person would be, so they do not suffer negative health consequences or emotional distress upon making a necessary business decision that causes harm to others.

Of course, this begs the question: If a politician who happens to be sociopathic becomes President, will this be an advantage or a disadvantage?

In my personal opinion, there are reasons not to elect Romney that are far more firmly based in fact than the theory–albeit one I’m hearing more and more often, including from some conservative friends–that Romney is not neurotypical. However, it’s an interesting question.

Had you asked me prior to the Romney campaign, I might have leaned toward the “advantage” side, because advisers can provide a rule set to the President which effectively synthesizes the benefits of conscience to the President and the country. Meanwhile, this theoretical sociopath President would not be prone to make illogical decisions based on sympathy for one or another group of people over others. The example that comes to mind is Truman’s description, in his autobiography, of an old friend’s emotional appeal which convinced then-President Truman to support Israel’s petition to be granted a country. Regardless of the rightness or wrongness of that decision, it’s clear that a sitting President admitted to making a decision which led to one of the most violent conflicts of the 20th and 21st centuries, primarily based on his emotional reaction to a friend’s appeal to his conscience.

However, Romney’s behaviors seem to suggest some disadvantages that might be less immediately obvious. He doesn’t convincingly mimic empathy behaviors, even when he’s talking to world leaders. He does not take advantage of opportunities to appear caring, relatable, or ordinary. In other words, he’s the anti-Bush: Nobody, even a Republican, wants to have a beer with Romney. George W. Bush was praised by some conservatives for being genuine, forthcoming, and making decisions from his “gut.” He was the red-blooded conservative male archetype, or at least an effective approximation of one.

Some news outlets have attributed Romney’s failure to appeal to Bush’s biggest fans to a “wimp factor”. But could a guy who hard-heartedly cuts and outsources jobs really be considered a “wimp?” I don’t think so–a wimp wouldn’t have gone so far in the cutthroat corporate world. Romney has demonstrated that he is decisive in the moment, although prone to waffling and revisionist history afterward.

Rather, it seems to me that it’s possible Romney isn’t connecting with the Bushites because of something a little harder to prove: He does not have moral convictions, gut instincts, or anything that could convince voters that President Romney is “just like them,” “genuine,” or “a real upstanding kind of guy,” as Bush was described by his supporters. They can’t relate to him the way people could to Bush, because Romney can’t relate to them the way Bush could.

This is in no way my own, original theory. For a few other takes on the question, click here, here, here, and here.

“Romney sociopath” yields 295,000 Google results, though it’s worth noting that “Obama sociopath” nets 768,000, including this vituperative condemnation in Mother Jones magazine, followed up by a colleague’s rebuke in the same publication. None of the first page of Google results for “Obama sociopath” makes a serious argument based on DSM criteria; this letter to the editor is the closest thing.

So, I don’t think people simply tend to accuse politicians they don’t like of sociopathy. There are a few results out there even for Bush, but most focus simply on his foreign policy and that he appears to feel no meaningful guilt for starting multiple wars in which lives were lost. Romney is the only modern candidate I could find who attracts calculated, expert analysis that suggests he may simply be a person without conscience.

Worth discussing? I think so, at this point, following his disastrous “world tour” in which he offended nearly everyone on Earth once, something that would impress even Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged.

Shooting/Bombing At Aurora Town Center Century 16 Theater

POLS UPDATE 12:05PM: At a press conference moments ago, Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates reported that at least 71 people were shot in total, and 12 have died.


A serious shooting and/or bombing incident with probable loss of life has occurred at the Century 16 theater at the Aurora Town Center mall, during a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises. From our own Andrew Bateman on Facebook:

I work across the street from the century 16 theater where the shooting/bombing took place tonight. I’m seeing helicopters and bomb squads. Estimates are between 20 and 40 injured. The scene here is crazy.

News outlets are reporting that police are not calling back with information and the only source of news for even the reporters is police/fire scanners like this one. There’s also a live feed here. I’m currently listening and hearing discussions of bringing a bomb dog to the scene.

The International Business Times is reporting 12 dead, but states that report is “unconfirmed.”

Police scanner is currently stating 20 patients at the University hospital, three are at Denver General, at least three at Children’s, two to Swedish. Victim’s advocates are being brought to the scene and Red Cross is being paged to assist evacuees being bused to a nearby high school. The University total of 20 includes one tough-as-nails patient who walked in with a gunshot wound under his or her own power. Another officer reported a pregnant woman was shot and transported to the hospital. All officers not currently on assignment are being paged to the command post at Century 16. No vehicles will be allowed to leave the scene–all evacuees are being transported by bus.

Opening up a thread for discussion and so that Polsters in the area can check in as alive and unharmed.

Praying for the victims and wounded, and hoping that there will be opportunities for community members to do more than pray as it becomes clear who is in need following this incident. Those wounded will have a long road to recovery, and if indeed–G-d forbid–there has been loss of life, survivors will need their community’s support.

Next Up in the 2012 Class of Horrible Republican Lit

When Republican candidates aren’t failing kindergarten math in their lit, they’re failing first grade English by using implied three-letter cuss words to sling mud at, ironically, one of the most eloquent Democrats in the legislature. Observe:

That’s a mailer from Brian Watson, the Republican opposing Democratic incumbent Representative Daniel Kagan, running in the brand-new HD3. Watson, a political novice whose website is long on buzzwords like “accountability” and “transparency” but hasn’t published a single concrete policy proposal (how transparent of him!), seems to have nothing to say about Kagan that can be said to your grandmother or in church. That’s probably because there’s really nothing to attack Daniel on, even if you’re a desperate Republican newcomer.

Pretty much the same point, in Kagan’s own words, after the fold:

An email from Kagan responded to the slimy mailer:

I am saddened that my opponent has chosen to begin his campaign with name-calling. We have come to expect divisive, ugly politics from Washington DC, but that’s not the way we do things in Colorado.

I was proud last year to receive support from members of both parties to pass the “Skills for Jobs Act”, legislation which will help Coloradans have access to the skills that will lead to high paying jobs. I believe in Colorado. We have a great future ahead of us if we put politics aside, work together, and solve the very real problems Colorado families are facing.

Name-calling and game playing by ambitious politicians is the wrong recipe for our future. As your state representative, I believe that we can work together to address the challenges facing our families. I have been proud to serve my district for four years, and with your support, I promise to continue solving roblems, improving education, and fostering innovation to strengthen our economy. Together, we can make Colorado the best place to live, work and raise our families.

During my four years in the Colorado House, I have been proud to be part of a legislature that holds itself to a higher standard. I am more interested in solving problems than playing politics. That’s why I entered the Colorado House – because the families of our community deserve real leadership, not petty name calling.

Wash that mouth out with soap, Brian Watson, and call Dan Kagan back when you’ve got something interesting to debate. Meanwhile, Colorado voters can regale themselves with fascinating, informative statements like this one, from Watson’s website:

Brian Watson will work to remove government red tape and give employers some breathing room to create new, well-paying jobs.

Compare to Kagan’s policy statement on the same issue:

Instead of catering to big corporations, Daniel is looking out for you. He closed corporate loopholes that benefit wealthy special interests, and passed legislation holding government accountable. He also championed legislation that is projected to create 23,000 clean energy jobs. [HB10-1001; HB10-1119; HB10-1189]

Brian Watson: Platitudes and mudslinging from the peanut gallery.

Daniel Kagan: Actual legislative accomplishments, and numbers to go with them.

Shouldn’t be a tough choice for voters, even with reapportionment adding a hefty chunk of Republicans to Kagan’s territory.

Colorado Peak Politics Displays Credibility By Accusing Me of Hating Women and Dressage

Check it out!

I’ve officially become an official part of Colorado Pols, officially. I have my very own Peak post accusing me of hating women, using a single isolated quote from my lengthy post defending Ann Romney and her horse. I’ve arrived!

Anyone accusing Peak of originality should take time to note that they even embedded in their post one of the same videos I used, without noting that it was also included in my diary. They also got their points in defense of Ann from–guess what–my diary defending Ann.

But in Peak-land, supporting policies that deny essential human rights to women is feminist because it gives women the chance to stand on their own, without even those pesky, patronizing civil liberties that men enjoy. Meanwhile, devoting a couple thousand words to defending a tone-deaf rich bitch (and yes, Ann Romney is that, despite Peak’s decision to remove the citation that quote linked to) is misogyny.

Not putting this on the front page, because, well, LAWL ATTENTION GRAB. No thanks, Peak, you’re still boring and still couldn’t get Pols-level comment counts even if you convinced Mitt Romney that SteriCycle would dump a human fetus in a landfill, thereby making a few cents for Bain, every time he commented.