Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Justice arrives: Three cops among five indicted for obstructing federal hate-crime investigation in Shenandoah, PA

-- by Dave

Already we can be thankful that we finally passed a federal hate-crime law this summer -- because it's helping bring about justice in the case of a Latino man killed by white thugs in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Five people, including three police officers, have been indicted in the fatal race-related beating of a Latino man in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, the Justice Department said Tuesday.

Two indictments charge the five with federal hate crime charges, as well as obstruction of justice and conspiracy, authorities said in a written statement. A federal grand jury handed up the indictments last week, and they were unsealed Tuesday.

Derrick Donchak and Brandon Piekarsky are charged with a hate crime for beating Luis Ramirez in July 2008 while shouting racial epithets at him, according to the department. Ramirez died two days later.

"Following the beating, Donchak, Piekarsky and others, including members of the Shenandoah Police Department, participated in a scheme to obstruct the investigation of the fatal assault," the Justice Department said. As a result, Donchak faces three additional counts of conspiring to obstruct justice and related offenses, officials said.

Shenandoah Police Chief Matthew Nestor and two other officers are charged with conspiring to obstruct justice in the Ramirez investigation. Nestor and a fourth police officer are named in a third indictment and charged with extortion and civil rights violations related to police corruption, the Justice Department said.

It's genuinely disturbing to discover that local law-enforcement officers were involved in covering this matter up and obstructing justice. It adds just another twist to an already shocking case.

The Ramirez case was a classic example of why we needed to pass a federal bias-crime law -- especially considering the outrageous circumstances in which the local jury slapped the young thugs on the wrist:

[T]his was a pretty clear-cut case of jury nullification: the weight of evidence against the accused was so powerful that it's clear the all-white jury -- like similar juries in the South during the Civil Rights struggle -- was not going to convict two young white men of murdering a Mexican. Even if, as Friedman says, "the only reason he is dead is because he was Mexican."

Prosecutors alleged that the teens baited the Ramirez into a fight with racial epithets, provoking an exchange of punches and kicks that ended with Ramirez convulsing in the street, foaming from the mouth. He died two days later in a hospital.

Piekarsky was accused of delivering a fatal kick to Ramirez's head after he was knocked to the ground.

As they poured out of courthouse, the teens' supporters shouted "I was right from the start" and "I'm glad the jury listened" at cameras that caught the late-night verdict.

But Gladys Limon, a spokeswoman for the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said the jury had sent a troubling message.

"The jurors here [are] sending the message that you can brutally beat a person, without regard to their life, and get away with it, continue with your life uninterrupted," she said.

Considering some of the details of the killing, it's also inordinately clear this was a classic bias crime, with the incident instigated by racially charged taunts that made clear the victim was selected because of racial animus:

"Isn't it a little late for you guys to be out?" the boys said, according to court documents. "Get your Mexican boyfriend out of here."

... Burke recalled hearing one final, ominous threat as the teens ran. "They yelled, 'You effin bitch, tell your effin Mexican friends get the eff out of Shenandoah or you're gonna be laying effin next to him,' " she said.

That is, of course, the entire purpose of bias crimes: To hold the victim up as an example: "You're next." The purpose is to terrorize the target community, to drive them out, eliminate them.

This is why Latino advocates demanded the Justice Department step in and deliver justice. It looks like they have.

Larry Keeler at HateWatch has more.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Stewart lambastes Glenn Beck for his gold-standard conflict of interest

-- by Dave

Oh what fun: Jon Stewart rips into Glenn Beck for his manifest lack of ethics in promoting gold as an investment on his program.

YahooNews's Brett Michael Dykes explained it in some detail:

For some time Beck critics have cried foul over his relationship with Goldline International, a precious metals vendor that features the TV and radio host's endorsement prominently on their website. Critics charge that Beck is guilty of misleading his audience by often advising them to purchase gold in advance of the potential collapse of the value of the dollar on the world currency market, without disclosing that he is in fact a "paid spokesman" for Goldline. Beck's on-air promotion of gold, which includes advising viewers to construct "fruit cellars" and to rely on a "three G system" of "God, Gold, and Guns" in the event of America's collapse, dates back to his time as a host for CNN Headline News.

Glenn Beck also regularly talks up gold on his nationally syndicated radio show, where he often endorses Goldline during live commercial segments. Additionally, Beck has had the company's CEO on as a guest. Advertisements for Goldline are also featured prominently on Beck's own website, where he recently promoted gold in an audio clip warning of an apocalyptic future:

When the system eventually collapses, and the government comes with guns and confiscates, you know, everything in your home and all your possessions, and then you fight off the raving mad cannibalistic crowds that Ted Turner talked about, don't come crying to me. I told you: get gold.

And as James Rainey explained at the LA Times, he may be leading a lot of people down a financial garden path:

Beck, true to form, has not been subtle in making his pitch. He has appealed to listeners to "think like a German Jew" during the period of Nazi ascendance. "I think people are running out of options," he said, "of something that could be worth something at all."

The alternative? Gold. Beck touts his personal investments in the metal and, though he has offered cautionary notes, he leaves no doubt about his bottom line.

"If you have been watching for any length of time and you still haven't looked into buying gold, what's wrong with you?" Beck asks on a video on his personal website. Those not following his advice, he adds, are "nuts."

Buying gold during economic hard times is not, to be sure, a new concept. In the current recession, it's a strategy that has been embraced by many mainstream investors.

My colleague Tom Petruno has written of how some economic wizards -- including David Einhorn of Greenlight Capital, predictor of last year's financial swoon -- have replaced some of the cash in their portfolios with gold.

But even some of those who have been making lots of money selling gold concede that the appeal goes beyond mere reason. Peter Epstein, president of Merit Financial Services, told Politico that his firm had advertised on CNN but that the gold message resonated more with Fox's viewers "because it's the angry white man audience -- it's the conservative audience. . . . They are distrustful of the government, of the regime."

That sort of thinking might not lead to the soundest decisions, some gold professionals told me.

"When people buy into the fear and flock into one thing, it's only a matter of time before it turns," said Matt Zeman, a metals trader at Chicago-based LaSalle Futures Group. Indeed, since last week's high of $1,218, gold had dropped Tuesday to $1,143, Zeman noted, adding: "I think the wheels could really come off the gold bandwagon."

Actually, Beck is promoting Ron Paul's extremist brand of libertarianism by promoting the "gold standard." It's been a sucker play for the Far Far Right for many years, and now it's being promoted by a mainstream news entity.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Glenn Beck can't seem to recall describing the Obama administration as fascist. We remind him.

-- by Dave

Glenn Beck seems to be increasingly rattled by having been designated by the ADL as the nation's "Fearmonger in Chief" -- though he continues, on his Fox News show at least, to avoid tackling his critics by name. (He's pushed back at the ADL on his radio show, but only briefly.)

Yesterday he went on his show and denounced the unnamed "they" who say he is encouraging violence with his extremist rhetoric (which would decidedly include us). Keying off his softball interview with Barbara Walters -- who never did bring up his serial falsehoods about Walters and her colleagues at The View, oddly enough -- Beck gets all worked up about the toughest point raised in the whole conversation:

Beck: Barbara Walters even played into this nonsense during her interview with me last night on her annual 'Fascinating People' show. Here it is:

[CLIP] Walters: Glenn Beck is somebody who incites people to violence --

Beck: Oh, I've heard a lot --

Walters: -- He is inflammatory, he makes us scared.

Beck: Yeah. People say Glenn Beck is someone who incites people to violence. Yeah, a lot of people are saying that, but what's the evidence?

She also mentioned that I called Barack Obama a fascist. I don't know -- I, I don't think so. Maybe -- I don't think so, I do realize that Media Matters and now just got an extra grant from Soros and they're moving into hyper-scramble to find, you know, an example. But I don't know if I ever even called him a fascist. I know I've said 'fascistic tendencies' -- sure, the administration is going in this direction.

Actually, what Walters said was this:

Walters: OK, you have said the Obama administration is fascist.

And in fact, that is exactly what he has done -- on multiple occasions, but most notably back on April 1:

Beck: Like it or not, fascism is on the rise. And that doesn't mean the Adolf Hitler kind of fascism. It's fascism with a happy face. I'll explain the exact definition of fascism in a second, and it will boggle your mind.


Beck: I looked up the definition of fascism yesterday, and I want to break it down. The first part is: "Where socialism sought totalitarian control of a society’s economic processes through direct state operation of the means of production, fascism sought that control indirectly, through domination of nominally private owners." Wouldn't you say this is what's happening with GM right now?

As we noted then, this even included a segment with a time-traveling dime:

How far out to lunch was Beck here? Well, one of the goofier moments in this whole charade came when Beck trotted out the back of an old American dime -- first minted, as Beck says, in 1916 -- which has a fasces, the fascist symbol, on its reverse side:


This is the famed "Mercury dime", which was designed by sculptor Adolph A. Weinman, who won a 1915 competition: "The reverse design, a fasces juxtaposed with an olive branch, was intended to symbolize America's readiness for war, combined with its desire for peace."

Now, the fasces has a long history of inclusion in various parts of American symbology besides just this dime. You can find it in the Oval Office, on National Guard Bureau insignia, on the American flag that flies in the U.S. House, in the Mace of the House of Representatives; on the seal of the U.S. Senate, on the Statue of Freedom atop the United States Capitol building, and on a frieze on the facade of the United States Supreme Court building. Fasces are incorporated into the Lincoln Memorial.

But then, fascism as a political movement was not born until 1919. So for sculptor Weinman to have intended the fasces on the Mercury dime to imply a "fascist" intent, he'd have had to have jumped in a time machine, traveled to the future, met Mussolini, and come back to 1915 with that nefarious design in his head. Somehow I doubt this.

Beck had made the charge even before then, in a February conversation with Laura Ingraham:

Beck: We are really, truly, stepping beyond socialism and we're starting to look at fascism. We are putting business and government together!

Ingraham: Glenn, you're throwing a lot of terms around, and I'm going to play devil's advocate, because this is fair and balanced. Now, moving from socialism to communism, that's, that's a pretty big leap -- socialism, obviously, the economic system, communism the political system. How are we right now moving toward state ownership of all, for instance, heavy industry?

Beck: Let me first of all just explain first what happened in Nazi Germany. It was National -- Socialism. We're talking now about nationalizing the banks, and socialized programs. National. Socialism.

At first in Nazi Germany, everybody was so panicked, they were so freaked. Remember -- don't take anytime to think about it, we've just got to do, do, do. At first all the big companies and the big capitalists in Germany said, 'Oh thank goodness there's a savior! OK, great! We'll do that, yes!' It didn't take too long before -- like here in America, now Goldman Sachs. They've started to see the writing on the wall and went, 'Whoa, whoa whoa! You guys are getting out of control here. What are you guys doing?' And they couldn't get out of it fast enough.

Unfortunately, for those in Germany, you could never go back. I don't know if this is the system that we're headed towards or not, where they're not going to let you out, but let me tell you something, I don't want to play this game. This is becoming extraordinarily dangerous.

Now, Beck did not specifically call Obama himself a fascist -- but then, that's not what Barbara Walters accused him of, either. She said he described the Obama administration as fascist -- and he definitely did that.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.