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A Shameful Day in America

The parallels between what I saw in Baghdad in 2016 and what happened in Washington, DC Wednesday afternoon are chilling.

I was stationed in Baghdad at the end of April 2016, when Iraqi Shia protestors breached the Green Zone for the first time since it was established after our invasion of Iraq in 2003. I was at the gym when the U.S. Embassy was locked down and everyone was ordered to shelter in nearby buildings. For several hours, no one knew whether the protestors would attempt to storm the embassy. Would this turn into Tehran in 1979

A short time earlier, Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada Al Sadr held a fiery press conference in the city of Najaf. He gave no orders to his supporters to riot, and in fact he condemned the violence during and after, but on the crowd came, pulling down sections of the concrete walls surrounding the Green Zone and breaking into the Iraqi parliament building. Their grievance was with the Iraqi government and not with us, thankfully, but Iraqi officers with whom I worked repeatedly compared Al Sadr to then candidate Donald Trump. They were downright prophetic.

Listening to President Trump address the crowd in Washington, DC yesterday, then seeing video and photos of protestors breaking into the U.S. Capitol Building and taking selfies in the House chamber brought back strong feelings of déjà vu. In 2016 in Baghdad, panicked lawmakers fled as the crowd rushed in, then Iraqi authorities declared a state of emergency and fired teargas to clear the building. It was nearly beat-for-beat what we witnessed in our own capitol Wednesday afternoon. 

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Predictions for 2021

A new year is finally here and most of us can breathe easier knowing we survived 2020. It was a wild ride, with unforeseen events occurring almost every week. Last year I thought impeachment would be the biggest story. Oh, how wrong I was!

I thought it would be fun and interesting to write down some predictions for 2021, then, at the end of the year, go back and see if I was right. Some of these are based on what I actually think will happen, and some are just wild predictions.

I prefer to see 2021 as a winding down period for 2020, meaning that a lot of the crises that arose last year will be resolved this year.

COVID-19 – The vaccines that came out in December will become wildly available and Coronavirus will cease to be a major issue. Infections might still happen, but not nearly in the numbers they have been. In March, I thought predictions for COVID deaths in the hundreds of thousands was wildly pessimistic, but now I’m predicting a final U.S. death toll of at least 500,000. I hope I’m wrong.

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Commentary Historic America

Vox Writer Offers Conspiratorial Take on U.S. Abortion History

Vox’s brand of “explanatory journalism” often relies on agenda-driven sources that assert highly questionable conclusions about history.

In “This is the future of abortion in a post-Roe America” Vox writer Anna North peddles a bizarre conspiracy theory while summarizing the legal history of abortion in the United States. Paraphrasing a law professor at UC Irvine, North claims that “male doctors” in the nineteenth century conspired to supplant midwives, who were “a racially diverse group” (by implication, all the doctors were evil white men, I suppose), which resulted in alienating women from their reproductive healthcare.

Her source is the book Policing The Womb: Invisible Women and the Criminalization of Motherhood by Michele Bratcher Goodwin, which from the title sounds totally agenda-free (<-sarcasm).

“For generations, most reproductive health care in this country, from labor and delivery to abortion, was provided by midwives,” she says. In other words, women controlled reproductive health care. Not just any women, a “diverse group” of African Americans, Native Americans, and whites. They performed their services in the home, and there were, for the most part, no laws against abortion before a pregnant woman could feel her baby move (called “quickening” in the past).

Here’s where things get dicey. “That began to change in the mid-19th century,” North writes, “when male doctors began an effort to supplant midwives and monopolize reproductive care.”

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CNN Analyst at It Again

Zachary Wolf peddles conspiracy theories about a sinister threat to “Democracy” in lead-up to election.

This bit of political “analysis” by Zachary B. Wolf, a “senior writer” for CNN who doesn’t seem to have many credentials other than a bachelors in English and Poly Sci from UC-Berkeley, is one of the laziest, least thought-provoking commentaries I’ve ever read published by a mainstream news outlet. It is filled with Democratic Party talking points, conspiracy theories, and confusion. 

A GOP senator has gone public against democracy” Wolf urgently warns us. Republicans are “ready to burn down the whole American experiment in representative democracy” and “ignore a defeat by a majority of voters.” 

Weird, that just two years ago, when Democrats gained 41 seats and a sizable majority in the House of Representatives, their new officeholders took their seats without incident. President Trump nefariously allowed his political opponents to win a huge victory and then vote to impeach him a year later. A strange thing for a wannabe fascist dictator to do.

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Commentary Historic America

Police Departments do not Have a 400-Year History of Anti-Black Racism

  • Modern police and police departments didn’t exist in the American colonies or the United States from 1619 to (at the earliest) 1838, a span of approximately 219 years.
  • Modern uniformed police departments were first established in Northern cities in free states and were based on British policing models, not Southern slave patrols.
  • Modern policing has nothing in common with slave patrols; their purpose, methods, and the legal rights and protections for the people involved are completely different.

Over the past few weeks, activists and pundits have made unbelievably inaccurate and outrageous historical claims about law enforcement in the United States. These assertions aren’t new, but they have entered the mainstream in a way we haven’t seen before. Fact-checking be damned. For instance, in an article not labeled as an opinion piece, USA Today writer Wenei Philimon claimed “Police departments have a 400-year history of racism”. This blanket assertion is supported with so little evidence or specificity, it wouldn’t receive a passing grade in a high school history class. 

“Dating back to the 1600s, the U.S., then a British colony, used a watchmen system, where citizens of towns and cities would patrol their communities to prevent burglaries, arson and maintain order. As the slave population increased in the U.S., slave patrols were formed in South Carolina and expanded to other Southern states, according to Sally Hadden, a history professor at Western Michigan University who researches slave patrols,” Philimon, a student at the Reynolds School of Journalism, writes.

Already, the inaccuracies are glaring. The colonies that would become the United States were not entirely British in the 1600s, but were originally formed by several European countries. France, Sweden, Netherlands, and Spain all made claims on this territory (New Netherland, including what would become New York City, didn’t fall completely under British control until 1674). Each colony was governed by its own laws and methods of maintaining order.

But even if we take this writer’s version of events at face value, what does preventing burglaries, arson and maintaining order have to do with racism, anyway? Never mind. Philimon glosses over the first 100 years of her 400-year timeline and goes directly to slave patrols.

“Slave patrols lay at the roots of the nation’s law enforcement excesses, historians say [Philimon only cites one historian who says this], helping launch centuries of violent and racist behavior toward black Americans,” she claims. This pernicious myth has been repeated in several academic books and articles and even at the National Law Enforcement Museum, although there is no direct link between slave patrols and modern police forces, especially (and most obviously) in the North.

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Commentary

CNN Can’t Help Fudging Facts in Impeachment Fact Check

Fact-checking is tricky business. In many cases, there is no mathematical certainty, especially when it comes to politics. Either side doesn’t necessarily want “the facts”, they want facts that cast their opinions and perspectives in the best possible light. In President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, both the congressional prosecutors and Trump’s defense team seek to twist facts to their advantage.

Enter CNN, an objective news source eager to parse their arguments so you can cut through the spin, or so it would have you believe. But the writers at CNN, of course, have their own perspective. And they can’t help themselves when it comes to trying to influence their readers with their own interpretation of events.

Yesterday, CNN put five writers on fact-checking Deputy White House Counsel Mike Purpura’s opening statement, and overall they did a decent job, actually admitting that many of Purpura’s claims were true (or mostly true). But there was one claim CNN’s fact checkers got wrong.

In his opening statement, Purpura claimed “not a single witness testified that the President himself said that there was any connection between any investigations and security assistance, a presidential meeting or anything else.”

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Commentary

CNN Lawyers Admit Charges of Racism are a Smear

“CNN filed a motion to dismiss the suit in May on the grounds that accusations of racism are not actionable in defamation cases because the allegation can’t be proven true or false.”

A few days ago, CNN settled with Covington Catholic High School student Nicholas Sandmann, who was suing for defamation over CNN’s coverage of the incident in January in which Sandmann and his classmates were accused of confronting and harassing a Native American man–until full video showed otherwise.

I used a quote from this National Review article as a subheading because it’s so important: Not only did CNN settle with Sandmann, tacitly admitting the news company was wrong, but its lawyers tried to argue Sandmann had no case because charges of racism are not meant to be defended against.

When someone accuses you of a real crime, it’s able to be proven true or false. Was a crime committed? Did you commit the crime or not? But what about when someone is accused of being racist or acting in a racist manner? Is that more opinion than fact? Most of the time, it’s litigated in the court of public opinion, and the accused have little recourse but to apologize for the perceived offense and hope things blow over.