EVERYBODY RAPSYNC: Elon James White and Jasiri X Respond to Stop and Frisk Ruling

On Monday, Federal Judge Shira A. Scheindlin ruled that the New York City Stop & Frisk policy was unconstitutional and in direct violation of the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable search and seizure. In response, New York City Mayor Bloomberg warned that the Judge didn’t “understand how policing works” and vowed to appeal the “dangerous” ruling on behalf of the city of New York.

In light of her decision, I checked in with Elon James White, founder of the award winning Podcast This Week In Blacknessand rapper Jasiri X, who in recent months had collaborated to give the Internet The 10 Frisk Commandments Remixfor their reactions.

The 10 Frisk Commandments takes a page from Biggie Smalls 10 Crack Commandments and sprang from an impromptu exchange at Netroots Nation last year.  The collaboration began as a song that featured Jasiri X in a video directed by Elon, and was remixed a year later and re-released in a video that features a variety of artists, activists and local politicians rap-syncing to the lyrics.

The ultimate takeaway being that racial profiling is a detrimental policy that impacts us all, a point that continues to evade Mayor Bloomberg who has explicitly stated that the end of the Stop and Frisk policy may result in “a lot of people dying,” as Jasiri notes:

The sad part is that Mayor Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly still don’t get it. They keep trying to make us believe that Stop and Frisk is for the benefit of Black and Brown communities. We don’t need another politician with a white savior complex, especially one who’s dangerous policies do more harm than good.

Indeed Jasiri’s rhymes, unlike Bloomberg’s bravado, are backed by statistics that indicate in the past two years out of all of the individuals stopped, nearly 90% were found guilty of no crime. Proponents of the policy champion it as being instrumental in saving “thousands of young Black and Hispanic men by removing guns from the streets” — when, indeed, findings suggest that almost one hundred percent of the time guns aren’t actually found on the individuals who are being stopped and frisked.

The ruling issued by the judge echos sentiments shared by Jasiri in the initial recording of the song when he raps;

Rule #10 a strong word call the Constitution
Or does it apply then to only white men
Is being Black and Brown probable cause Hell no
So why we getting stopped rain, sleet, hail, snow

Bloomberg – who has previously stated that “we disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little” -despite statistics that show that over 80% of individuals stopped are Black or Hispanic- would have you believe that it’s for your own good.  What underlies his vendetta is the notion that black and brown people need to be policed for their own security.

The cultural and systemic implications of a policy like Stop and Frisk cannot be understated.  While they may be harder to measure, the fact is that this policy perpetuates the notion that men of a certain pigmentation are dangerous, suspect and that treating them accordingly is justified and conducive to their own preservation.

At the heart of The 10 Frisk Commandments is a God willing to degrade you to protect you from yourself.

Elon is not impressed:

I find the whole process and ruling a bit problematic. The ruling doesn’t bring me joy because we now know what many believe is “right”–young people of color are criminals until proven not to be. NYC had a law for dehumanizing us but this still happens in places without the law. I’m reminded of the old Chris Rock joke about folks wanting credit for doing the right thing. Ruling this unconstitutional was the least they could do and I will not praise them for realizing treating people who look like me like shit was bad.

In the age of Trayvon Martin and Anthony Stokes, the simple act of being a young man of color is in itself an act of deviance that warrants giving others pause.  What qualifies as an acceptable response to that deviance is what’s currently being debated.

Whether we stop and frisk them, shoot them, or deny them a heart transplant– the victims of what’s at the heart of this policy are people who deserve the right to exist in America with their dignity intact.

Asking for as much makes me sad.

This is pathetic.

If you concur, then rapsync.

Share the video– or make your own.

We may not have billions of dollars or access to all the bells and whistles of the New York City Mayor’s office– but we have the Internet, and thanks to The 10 Frisk Remix we have a soundtrack that lights the way forward.

Pat Robertson Says Being Transgender Is Not A Sin, No Such Thing As Ghosts

Pat Robertson has been making headlines lately.  With the help of some creative callers to his show “The 700 Club,” Robertson can’t seem to stay out of the news.

It all began earlier this week when a viewer named David asked how he should refer to his transgender colleagues given that their gender status had changed in eyes of the law.

Robertson responded;

“I think there are men who are in a woman’s body,” he said. “It’s very rare. But it’s true — or women that are in men’s bodies — and that they want a sex change. That is a very permanent thing, believe me, when you have certain body parts amputated and when you have shot up with various kinds of hormones. It’s a radical procedure. I don’t think there’s any sin associated with that. I don’t condemn somebody for doing that.”

Known for his frequent anti-gay sentiments — and in the wake of Pope Francis’ own admission that it was beyond him to judge gay clerics — Robertson’s response came as a welcome surprise in some corners of the internet, while yet others began bending over backwards to explain away any perceptions of being pro-gay.

More recently, questions have surfaced as to whether or not the 83 year old is simply being trolled by callers wanting advice on how to address supernatural beings:

“My house is haunted.  There’s moaning coming from the walls, lights turn on and off, the TV changes channels on its own, the bed move, stuff floats off tables, mirrors break, and there is sometimes a creepy fog. The ghosts look like people, but have dark blue light around their feet and hands.  What do I do?”

Robertson’s answer?

Burn the house down!

The severity of his response should come as no surprise.  This is the same guy, after all, who suggested that Katrina was God’s response to America’s abortion policy.

Robertson goes on to suggest that the bible doesn’t support the concept of ghosts and implies that this viewer is actually plagued by demons and should therefore look into staging an exorcism.

So there you have it.

Ghosts don’t exist, demons do, and being transgender is okay!

The diversity of questions posed on his show likely stems in large part to how simple it is for viewers to submit a question.

Who knows what they might ask next.

Now That’s Just UnAmerican! High School Internet Filter Messes with Religion, Baseball

This caught my eye:

The Gainesville (Georgia) School Board has promised it would look into why two Chinese oriented meditation websites come up as ‘occult’ and are blocked by the Gainesville High School Internet filter…Expressing her concern at Monday’s board meeting held in the high school cafeteria, Mary Silver, who supports Clear Wisdom and Falun Dafa, told board members the sites do not encourage involvement in the occult. Far from it, she said.

Falun Dafa is also known as Falun Gong, a form of exercise and meditation banned by the Chinese government in 1999. Practitioners have been jailed, sent to work camps and tortured. And if you believe some websites, killed and their organs sold for transplants. Occult means “secret” or “hidden.” At time the word is equated with “esoteric,” and has by used by some to describe practices like meditation, yoga, astrology, witchcraft as well as various mono- and polytheistic faiths which may practice these exercises and arts. Lumped into “occult” by pop culture are werewolves, vampires, zombies and anything else scary.  Eye roll.

A quick search for “Falun Dafa” and “occult” gets you to discussion forums like Vampire.nu and Occultforum.org, as well as one site that claims Falun Dafa practitioners

collect energy for [their] own benefit, but a portion is re-directed (by occult processes) to the Falun Gong cause in China.

So basically, Falun Dafa practitioners believe they are using some not readily known method to help gain freedom to practice their religion and to draw attention to human rights abuses. Kinda like prayer circles where the faithful pray to make money or to get rid of demons in their neighborhood.

But wait a minute.  Why is the term “occult” blocked by the high school’s internet filter? What other words are blocked? And why? Is “atheist” blocked? “Evolution”?   Are certain religions? Philosophies? And how would parents feel if terms like “resurrection” or “son of God” were blocked?

In April Prince William School District in Virginia received a letter from the ACLU pointing out that the school district’s internet ban on the term LGBT was unconstitutional. TDB reported:

According to the ACLU, barred websites under the system’s “LGBT” filter include those for educational organization The Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network, school diversity campaign the Gay-Straight Alliance Network, anti-bullying initiative Day of Silence, and anti-suicide initiative the It Gets Better Project.

Meanwhile, because Prince William County Public Schools does not elect to bar “political/activist groups,” “health,” or “reference,” it currently allows students to access anti-LGBT websites like People Can Change, the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality, and Exodus International.

At they time they sent out the letter, the ACLU issued the following statement:

The ACLU also sent similar letters to schools in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Texas as part of the organization’s “Don’t Filter Me” initiative, which seeks to combat illegal censorship of LGBT information on public school computer systems by enlisting students to check their school’s web browsers and report what they find.

Under the First Amendment right to free speech and the Equal Access Act, gay-straight alliances and LGBT support groups should have access to national organizational websites that help them to function, just as other groups, such as Key Clubs and the chess clubs, are able to access their national websites.

Ken Blackstone, a spokesman for the Prince William school system said that:

the school system is required by federal law to use Internet filtering software to keep students and staffers from looking at inappropriate content at school. He said the division’s Blue Coat filtering software blocks out 32 specific categories, including, for instance, sites containing pornography or promoting violence or drugs.

Butt the process is automated and sometimes the software doesn’t correctly differentiate between, for example, gay support groups and gay pornography.

In order to correct that problem, Blackstone said the school division has a process by which students or staff can request to have a site unblocked. He said that to the best of his knowledge, no one made such a request in this case.

So, if websites about certain  “occult” faiths, philosophies and belief systems are not allowed into the school, and other religions and philosophies are allowed to pass through the Internet filter, why? Who sets up these filters? Are they set by prevailing community standards, the Federal government, or by the school itself using certain guidelines and their own interpretations?

Seems though that blocking equal access to all religions is a blow against freedom of religion, one of the very cornerstones of our nation and one of the reasons we even have Founding Fathers.

And side note: banning the word “occult” prevents seekers from finding information about colon cancer, arthritis and even baseball!

Anonymous Runs Operation Payback on Tunisia, Net Wars Heat Up

Websites run by the Tunisian government have been successfully targeted by Operation: Tunisia, a cell within Anonymous’ Operation Payback, in a distributed denial of service  action, which dropped this image and message on several government sites before the Anon-fueled DDoS knocked them offline. (Reminder: DDoS is illegal, and people have been arrested for it).

The message from Anonymous is to the point:

The Tunisian government wants to control the present with falsehoods and misinformation in order to impose the future by keeping the truth hidden from its citizens. We will not remain silent while this happens. Anonymous has heard the claim for freedom of the Tunisian people. Anonymous is willing to help the Tunisian people in this fight against oppression. It will be done.

This is a warning to the Tunisian government… It’s on the hands of the Tunisian government to stop this situation. Free the net, and attacks will cease, keep on that attitude and this will just be the beginning.

The sites affected include: pm.gov.tn, rcd.tn, benali.tn, carthage.tn, bvmt.com.tn, sicad.gov.tn, indrustrie.gov.tn, commerce.gov.tndouane.gov.tn and ministeres.tn. You can see screen shots of  some  pages here and here and here.

Anonymous has been assisting Tunisia dissidents with a strong efforts and dedicated actions, much as they did–and continue to do–in Iran responding to that country’s post-2009 election revolts, with codes, the manual mean of DDoS, and with spreading the word about what is happening in the country.

It is reported that many of the Tunisian DDoS-ers are based in that African nation, but with Anon being an Erisian global disorganization, there is help from around world with a bunch of people supplying code that helps Tunisians move past Internet filters and surf anonymously.

The country’s already tense situation escalated on after New Year’s Day when Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s  government blocked WikiLeaks, a Tunisian WikiLeaks mirror and media sites reporting on Wikileaks; several cables from Embassy Tunis released by Wikileaks going as far back as 2008 were highly critical of the Tunisian government.

Within nine hours of the government shutting down access to Wikileaks, numerous sites linked to the government were decorated with Anonymous/Operation: Tunisia’s message, then knocked offline.

As of this writing many government sites still remain offline. Tunisian pro-government hackers have returned the favor according to more than one report; Tunisian blogger Lina Ben Mhenni, a university assistant, told Al Jazeera:

The government has cracked down on activists by hacking our emails, facebook and blogs. They have deleted a few pages in which I was writing about the public protests.

According to reports on Facebook, there have been dozens of injuries and at least four deaths in the recent spate of protests, though this is difficult to confirm.  Al Jazeera is covering the protests–which include police surrounding high schools and colleges to prevent demonstrations after

[A]bout 250 demonstrators, mostly students, attended a peaceful march on Monday afternoon to express their support for the protests in the region of Sidi Bouzid, a union source told AFP.

The march then turned violent when police tried to contain the protesters by firing tear gas canisters, one of which fell into a mosque.

Enraged, the protesters then reportedly set fire to tyres and attacked the local offices of the ruling party, the source said.

Because of tech issues centering around  DNS servers hosting governmental as well as business and media sites (DNS=domain name service, a hierarchical naming system built on a distributed database for computers, services, or any resource connected to the internet), some non-governmental sites have been unavoidably affected.

As pointed out in the Wikileaks cables, corruption in Tunisia is rampant, so Operation: Tunisia has also targeted Tunisian President Ben Ali’s wife, Leila Ben Ali and her extended family the Trabels are knocking off websites linked to the  family’s businesses.

In an egregious and morally reprehensible move, the government has cracked down on access to religious leaders and local police and officials are harassing Muslim men with beards. According to the Tech Herald which has done excellent reporting on the Tunisian situation:

One [internet relay chat/IRC] user explained how local mosques are only available during certain times of the day now.

“In the mosques we have not the right to learn our religion, we do the prayer, and they close the mosques,” a Tunisian explained to us on IRC.

“We have five prayer sessions a day. We go to the mosque, do it, and then they close the mosque until the next prayer. In the past there is Imam (religion man) who [teaches] people the Quran, now we have nothing.”

This is the second African nation which has been the focus of an Anonymous DDoS action; in late December Anon instigated a DDoS-ing of  a complete takedown of the ZANU-PF website, the Zimbabwean government portal, and the Zimbabwean Finance Ministry website, as well as posting their message on Finance Ministry website, stripping all other news content and offering a message that said simply:

We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.

Pakistan Clamps Down on Internet Because Today is “Everybody Draw Mohammad Day”

Today is International Draw Mohammad Day, and the government of Pakistan is pretty angry about the Facebook group and related YouTube channels. Actually some folks on Facebook are are a little disgusted, too. One guy wrote:

This is just primitive primate politics — one troop of monkeys looking for an excuse to fling poop at another. I understand wanting to show the radical extremists that we aren’t afraid of them, but what is the point in causing anger and disgust in the vast majority of Muslims who are just regular folks?

It is sort of poking a rabid badger with a stick, and I’d rather spend my time making fun of other things. Dentists like Orly Taitz and Don McLeroy for example.

The Washington Post reports that links to over 450 internet sites have been shut down by the Pakistani government:

An Internet clampdown in Pakistan widened Thursday as the government blocked access to the YouTube Web site, citing its “growing sacrilegious content.” The move came one day after the civilian government ordered Internet service providers to restrict access to the Facebook social networking site, which drew fire in Pakistan over a page encouraging people to post caricatures Thursday of the Prophet Muhammad….

Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia, also appeared to be blocked in Pakistan on Thursday, but it was not clear whether the government had restricted access or there was a glitch in the system. Access from smartphones to Facebook, YouTube and other sites with “blasphemous content” was also blocked, according to one major cellphone company, Mobilink.

The Facebook group claims:

They can’t kill us all, there is safety in numbers

Okay. Sure.  And

In Islamabad, about 100 young men belonging to the Islami Jamiat Talba, the student wing of a religious political party, carried signs bearing slogans such as, “Death to Those Responsible for Blasphemy.” They called Facebook a tool for spreading anti-Islamic sentiments.

“If Facebook and other such tools continue to be used for blasphemy by the Western nations, then we will target their embassies,” said Faisal Javed, 21.

I think something is blasphemy if the person doing it is of that faith. How can you blaspheme against something you don’t believe in?  And if you’re a really good member of that religion you wouldn’t be doing anything blasphemous anyway–whether it’s looking at a forbidden website or frolicking illicitly–right Messrs. Ensign, Souder, Rekers and Sanders?

(all artwork: Dan Lacey)