Wednesday, March 28, 2012

AFTERMATH: Health Care Mandates, Business When Broke and Trayvon with Justice

Family,  if you missed the show, download it here or press play below. Or Subscribe to our PODCASTS on iTunes and never miss our show!

1. The Obamacare (Romneycare) debate and the individual mandate...

How much do you care about the individual mandate debate going on before the Supreme Court and in the rest of the country? How much should you care? This week we spoke with experts on the subject who were for, against and indifferent to individual mandate portion of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare as many have dubbed it. We began with a heated discussion between Dr. Steffie Woolhandler of Physicians for a National Health Program (also a professor at CUNY and visiting professor at Harvard University) and TR Reid of the Washington Post and author of “The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper and Fairer Health Care.” They discussed the individual mandate, what it is and why they oppose and support respectively. Jon Walker of Firedoglake also joins us to discuss why the individual mandate may actually be irrelevant to the healthcare debate entirely.

We were then joined by Dr. Mona Mangat of Doctors for America and Bob Crittendon of the Herdon Alliance who talk about what it would mean for the Individual Mandate to be declared unconstitutional and how they thought the Affordable Care Act would have been a bridge between Democrats and Republicans. Bob Crittendon went so far as to describe Obamacare as “the most conservative health care plan ever brought before congress.”

If you just want to hear the segment on Obamacare (Romneycare), click here or press play below

2. Starting a business when broke...

Now we all know that the American economy depends on small businesses, but how can anybody start a business when they’re broke? Barbershop owner Gianni Tata calls in to tell us his story of opening a business in Saginaw, Michigan during the middle of the recession and how he managed to pull it off. Jennifer Dziura author of the Bullish columns also joins the show to give us some tips on how to get moving and explains that all you need to have a business is customers, not all of the bells and whistles. Friend of the show Rodney North, of Equal Exchange calls in to discuss the concept of a co-op and shares many resources that people can use to start their cooperative business.

If you only want to here the "business when broke segment", including some clips from Jennifer that weren't played on the show, click here or press play below.

Here, in a clip not heard on the show, Jennifer tells us about the types of services a business can provide if you don't have any money and need a customers base fast.  (hint:find some rich customers)

Here, she lays out what you have to do if you need some start up capital to start the business

3.  Listen to the update on the fight for justice for Trayvon Martin, here.

Debating Obamacare's Individual Mandate and Building a Business when Broke


Family, welcome back for another week of real talk.  This show won't be an exception.  We will update folks on the ongoing fight for justice for Trayvon Martin in the middle of the program (and don't forget to check our other work on it here, here and here).  And then...

1.  Should anyone care about "Obamacare's" individual mandate?
This week, the Supreme Court will be debating whether the individual mandate (requiring everyone to purchase insurance) is constitutional or not.  On this show, we won't talk about whether we need Health Care reform or not, because we sort of think it is obvious that we do (sorry people).  What we will talk about is whether or not anyone that wants health care reform or even supports the other parts of the Affordable Care Act (i.e Obamacare nationwide and Romneycare in Massachusetts) should give a damn about what happens with the individual mandate.  Our guests will include author, lecturer and documentary filmmaker TR Reid, Public Health Professor Dr. Steffie Woolhandler (CUNY-Hunter College and Physicians for a National Health Program),  Bob Crittenden (Herndon Alliance), Dr. Mona Mangat (Doctors for America) and Jon Walker, a writer for Firedoglake.  This should be fun.

2.  Starting a business when you are broke...
So we talk a lot on this show about how messed up this economic system is.  But through our ongoing "When You Are Broke" series, we try to tell our broke listeners what to do while changing the system or just waiting to become cogs in it.  In this segment, we will talk to writer of the Bullish columns Jennifer Dziura, friend of the show and co-op creation know-it-all Rodney North (Equal Exchange), and childhood friend and barbershop builder Gianni Tata.  If you are broke and have no plan on not being broke, you might wanna catch this one.

You know how we do...Tune in! Call in! and Let's Talk About It!


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

6 pics scarier than Trayvon's "thug" twitter pics

Be very afraid...there is a dart board on the wall

By Subhash Kateel

(note:  nothing on this page is meant to make light of Trayvon's tragic death, only of the idiots trying to make up reasons why he deserved to die.)

So last week, people from all walks of life came together to mourn Trayvon's tragic death and demand justice.  Then, people decided to lose perspective on what this case is suppose to be about: a young boy killed by an armed man and cops who didn't do their job and let him get away with it.  Well, it turns out that this is the week that people decide to lose their damn minds, going to batsh*t insane lengths to justify murder.  The worst example, is the sudden discovery of "thuggish" pics allegedly taken from Trayvon's twitter account with the handle @NO_LIMIT_NIGGA.  Because, seriously, what isn't "thuggish" about a twitter handle named after the rap record label from ten years ago that once signed Lil Romeo.
This guy

Then there is the news that Trayvon was suspended for having either an empty bag of weed or spraying graffiti.  Which still makes his rap sheet a lot less scary than Andy Warhol's.

But who wouldn't follow this guy around a neighborhood with a loaded gun?

The fact that anyone thinks that Trayvon's pic above, or his less-than-Lindsay-Lohan "criminal history" make him scary or worthy of a bullet in his chest means they either need Jesus or a hobby.  But it got me thinking, are there any pictures that are scarier than Trayvon's scary "thug" pics?  I was looking through my belongings and thought that putting pictures of old Indian aunties with gold teeth in an article would get me into a lot of trouble with my family (I know, I recycled a joke).  But I did find a few pics that frightened me a hell of a lot more than Trayvon's after doing some serious research on the web...for five minutes.  So here goes...

1.  Rick Scott, or the bad guy from Poltergeist II
Don't let your kids see this at night

2.  Geraldo Rivera, after getting punched by skinheads
Imagine this guy walking around with a hoodie on?

3.  Rush Limbaugh, or the stay-puff marshmellow man on oxycotin

I bet he wished his packet of drugs was empty when he got caught.

4.  Adam Tavss, former cop who stood his ground (and planted stuff in it) too many times

As I mentioned in my last post, Adam Tavss is a former Miami Beach cop who killed two unarmed men in one week on the job.  He was cleared of wrongdoing in both cases, but was later fired after failing a drug test.  He was then arrested after a marijuana grow lab was discovered in his house.

5.  Anthony Mangione, ICE's defender of human trafficking victims, viewer of kiddie porn
Seriously, would you let him be around your kids?
 Anthony Mangione was the Special Agent-In-Charge of all ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) investigations in South Florida for the Feds.  In 2009, he led a controversial bust of a human trafficking ring that arrested a bunch of people that had nothing to do with human trafficking and his agents were accused of assaulting several Guatemalan immigrants during the course of the collateral arrests.  I was pretty involved in helping to document this case with two community groups (FLIC and WeCount!) back then.  You can imagine my surprise when I found out that this heroic savior of human trafficking victims (who arrested people that did nothing of the sort) was later bagged after being caught with kiddie porn.

6.  Oh yeah, then there is this guy
What would you do if he was following you around a neighborhood at night?
Let me know if you find any scarier pics.  And don't forget to tune in to our show every Wednesday at 7pm.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Is the “stand your ground” debate helping or hurting justice for Trayvon?

By Subhash Kateel

It almost hurts me to write anything about Trayvon Martin.  Since he was killed, there has been a massive outcry amongst almost anyone with a beating heart.  As I was preparing for my radio show dedicated to Trayvon’s murder, what struck me about this case is that virtually every person I talked to, White, Black, Brown, liberal or conservative, gun owner or not, is outraged at Trayvon’s murder and the actions/inactions of the Sanford Police Department and local prosecutors.  It hurts even more to criticize people I respect who I feel are making a huge mistake putting Florida’s “stand your ground,”“shoot first” or “self-defense” law (depending on your perspective) on the same trial as Trayvon’s killer George Zimmerman and the cops who failed to do the right thing.  In the end, I think the insistence on making this as much about “stand your ground” as it is about Trayvon, the man that murdered him and the police that didn’t do their job is hurting the case.

If you don’t know by now, 17-year-old Miami native Trayvon Martin was visiting his father in Sanford, Florida, a small town north of Orlando.  Volunteer neighborhood watchman, George Zimmerman called the police, follows Trayvon against the advice of a 911 dispatcher,  confronts him and shoots him to death with his legally owned 9 mm pistol.  The cops come and don’t arrest Zimmerman, calling the killing a justifiable homicide.

It is not easy to say that people I look up to (and not because I am short) may be hurting Trayvon’s case, and I don’t think it is intentional in any way.  That doesn’t stop my belief that entangling Trayvon’s murder with “stand your ground” is counterproductive. For example, one of my favorite broadcast journalists, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, spent ten minutes of her Tuesday program talking with guests that labeled attempts to repeal “stand your ground,” “Trayvon’s reversal.”  One of my favorite state senators, Oscar Braynon (D-Miami Gardens) is calling for hearings on “stand your ground,” telling the Miami Herald that "this is a perfect case of where it goes awry.” Mother Jones, a magazine I read often, ran an article yesterday referring to it as “the law protecting Trayvon Martin’s killer.” Josh Horwitz of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, an organization I once featured on my show, did an entire analysis of the bill in a Huffington Post article claiming that the law is “arming Zimmerman’s” defense.  Even a Facebook friend of mine declared on my wall yesterday that Zimmerman was “within the limits of the law.” I could literally go on for pages.

There are many, many, things wrong with this all of this.  For starters, accepting that “stand your ground” is the reason Zimmerman is not in jail requires us to believe that Zimmerman was actually defending himself and that the cops who responded to the case actually did their job and were just following the law.  It also means not believing Trayvon’s family lawyer,  Jasmine Rand, who insisted on the exact same Democracy Now program mentioned above that there is more than enough evidence for cops to arrest George Zimmerman and for prosecutors to prosecute him, if only people in power would do their jobs.  Furthermore, almost every person talking about Trayvon’s murder and “stand your ground” in the same breath are either not reading the law, misreading it or reading the wrong parts of it.  In the end, insinuating in any way that Zimmerman, the cops or the prosecutors simply acted within the limits of the law and that the law is the primary problem in this case, not only creates reasonable doubt in the court of public opinion where there should be none, it unnecessarily turns a clear cut case of right vs. wrong, illegal vs. legal, and murder into an unhelpful ideological and culture war that doesn’t benefit Trayvon, his family or justice.

If you look at the mountain of evidence in the case, from the 911 tapes where a dispatcher tells Zimmerman to not follow Trayvon into the neighborhood, to the conversation between Trayvon and his girlfriend where he fears he is being followed by someone, to the eyewitnesses in the case who told Anderson Cooper that right after hearing Zimmerman (who outweighed Trayvon by 100 pounds) shoot Trayvon, they saw Zimmerman on top of him,  the idea that Zimmerman was using deadly force to prevent imminent death, great bodily harm or a forcible felony (as the law requires) quickly falls apart. 

If people who are much smarter than me would just read the law in its entirety, and not just the parts they like or dislike, they would see that Florida’s “Justifiable Use of Force” statutes (it is not called “stand your ground,” “shoot to kill,”or “yippie ki yay, I’m a cowboy”) include a section (776.041) that few people (even those defending the law) mention which explicitly prohibits a shooter from using self defense as an excuse, when they are the ones provoking the use of force.  In fact, in those cases, the law requires exactly what Senator Braynon and Josh Horwitz want, that people provoking a confrontation must try to escape it, and not just shoot first. 

On my show yesterday, Tampa Gun Shop owner and firearms instructor Vic Grechniw, who teaches the same classes that Zimmerman was required to take before getting his Concealed Weapons Permit, not only insists that he sees nothing justifiable in Zimmerman’s actions, he states that he doesn’t know any firearms instructors that would.  The irony of the whole situation is that he believes if you read Florida’s law in its entirety, there was one person that had the right to “stand his ground” against a perceived “imminent” threat, and that person was Trayvon Martin. 

But he is not alone,  the Republican lawmakers that crafted Florida’s specific “stand your ground” provisions don’t get why Zimmerman hasn’t been charged yet.  A former Miami Dade prosecutor told the Herald that if Zimmerman was asked to back off (which a 911 dispatcher did), then “he’s not covered by the law.”  Miami criminal defense attorney Marcus Tan told me on my show that if the cops did their jobs, there was more than enough to make an arrest.  By constantly invoking existing Florida law as the primary barrier, some of my friends speaking out for Trayvon while saying that the cops acted within the current law, seem to be the only ones that disagree.

If anything, after reading the entire Justifiable Use of Force statute, what troubled me most wasn’t its newer “stand your ground” provisions, but its older provisions (776.05) giving law enforcement officers (as opposed to wannabe cops) a whole lot of leeway to use “any force”(including lethal force) in a wide variety of situations.  Is this the law used to let crooked Miami Beach Cop Adam Tavss off the hook for two questionable shootings in one week two years ago right before he was arrested for growing drugs in his basement?  If so, should the people newly interested in “stand your ground” be interested in reviewing all of it?

The reason all of this is important is twofold.  As a practical matter, if this case does go to trial, in criminal court or civil court, it will not be in my old home New York, Washington DC, or California.  It will be in Florida, and likely require a jury of Floridians.  The jury pool may very well consist of people that own guns, have concealed weapons permits, agree with “stand your ground,” but still think murdering a young boy is a GOD-awful thing to do.  The more this is about issues that invoke a culture war and a shooter that acted within “the limits of the law,”and not a clear case of unlawful murder of a young boy and incompetent cops that didn’t make a proper arrest, the more it muddies the minds of people that may serve on a jury.

But perhaps more importantly, it is patently unfair to expect Trayvon’s family,  anyone mourning Trayvon’s murder,  hashtagging his name on twitter or saying a prayer for his family to recount, research, or recite the long history of race relations, self defense laws, gun ownership or anything else in order to achieve justice for Trayvon.  If this is a race issue, a gun issue, or a culture war issue, it is  because a man murdered a young boy and the specific cops in the case neither followed the law nor did their job.  Can we all stand our ground, together, on that fact?

Don't forget to tune in to our show every Wednesday at 7pm.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


FAMILY, if you missed the show, download it here or press play below.  Plus, subscribe to our PODCASTS on iTunes, and never miss our shows.

-The tragic death of Miami teen Trayvon Martin at the hands of self-appointed neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman in Sanford Florida has sparked nationwide outrage and calls for Zimmerman’s arrest have echoed from every media source, so you know we had to talk about it! Listen to our conversation with Vic Grechniw, firearms instructor and the owner of Florida Ammo Traders in Tampa, where he talks about how firearms instructors in his circle of colleagues would never call Zimmerman did justifiable force in a concealed weapons class. We also speak with criminal defense attorney Marcus Tan about Florida’s now infamous stand your ground law and how it’s completely inapplicable in this instance. We get a check in call from protesters in Liberty City where 800 people took to the streets to protest and Jonathon Perri of tells us about the viral media campaign to bring Trayvon’s story to the masses.

In the past year we’ve heard a lot of bad things about the banks and their role in our country’s financial crisis, but what do people on the inside think about the whole thing? Miguel Guerrero joins us to tell us about his experience as a loan officer at Wells Fargo and how he saw the focus shift from helping people buy homes and start businesses to squeezing money out of unsuspecting customers. He also tells us about the opposition he faced when he attempted to speak out against his employer’s crooked practices. Finally we talk to former analyst for Bear Stearns and author of Pants on Fire, Paul Christopherson about his book, and the lies that are preventing people from attaining the American Dream and what he believes needs to be done to change things.

If Cops wanted to do right by Trayvon and Bankers wanted to do right by America

1.  If Cops and Prosecutors wanted to do right by Trayvon, they would have...

On Feb 26, a young 17 year-old boy from Miami, Trayvon Martin was killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer while returning back to his father's home from the corner store, armed only with skittles and ice tea.  Now the whole world is watching.  The man who killed Trayvon, George Zimmerman, remains free, because the police said they had no grounds to arrest him.  Some of the media have taken the cops word for it, citing Florida's "stand your ground law."  On our show tonight, we want to take a different tact, we want to know what the Cops (and Prosecutors) could have done to make an arrest.  And we start by talking to attorneys and to expert Florida firearms instructors that teach classes like the one George Zimmerman would have taken before he could legally carry a weapon.  And then we do the most ground breaking, cutting edge, thing of all, we actually look at the existing law that Sanford cops say excuses them from doing their jobs.  Don't miss this segment, please, you may learn something.

2.  If Bankers wanted to do right by America...

"The banks got bailed out the people got sold out!" is a common refrain in post occupy-Wallstreet America.  But there are still some people that don't get why people are so mad at big banks for "their own" bad decisions.  Well, we decided to ask two people that should know about banks better than anybody, people that actually worked for them.  Join us as we talked to a former Wells Fargo loan officer, and a former analyst at Bear Stearns.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

AFTERMATH: Beyond Kony and After Troops Leave Afghanistan...

FAMILY!  If you missed the show, and you want to listen to the whole thing, download it here or press play below.

1.  Beyond Kony2012

"Imagine if people were making money out of Bin Laden's name and trying to give money to victims of people who died at Ground Zero.  How would you feel?  Would you wear the t-shirt of Bin Laden in order to give money to victims?"-Rosebell Kagumire in response to Kony2012.

That penetrating question arose from our interview with Ugandan journalist and blogger Rosebell Kagumire about Kony 2012 and the uproar that it’s caused on all of our Facebook and Twitter feeds. Rosebell goes on to tell us how ordinary Ugandans feel about the campaign and how Kony 2012 misrepresents the central African country and the problems that it faces. We also discuss the issue further with Professor Jean Muteba Rahier (Director, FIU Department of African and African Diaspora Studies) and the importance of fighting stereotypical depictions of life in Africa.  If you want to hear this segment, download here or press play below.  On the show, we wanted to make sure that this wasn't just a "bash Kony2012" session.  There are groups of Ugandans doing work on the ground that still need our help.  If even a fraction of the 100 million people who viewed the KONY2012 video would support grassroots efforts on the ground in Uganda, that support would go a long way. If you want to learn more about organizations on the ground in Northern Uganda that Rosebell suggested checking out, click here, here and here.

-One last quote from our interview with Rosebell, "It [Uganda] is not just another Rambo Movie."
We hope the "Invisible Children" workers are listening

2.  From Uganda to Florida we discuss a tuesday raid on members of Occupy Miami preparing for a protest against Chase bank with Rami Mahmoud.  Download that segment here or press play below...

-And hear about the anti-shackling bill that was passed by the state legislature with Anjali Sardeshmukh from Mobile Midwife here or below...
-And hear Kathy Bird of the Florida Immigrant Coalition also tell us about last weeks events commemorating the historic Selma-Montgomery in Alabama.  Listen here or below...
-And finally...3.  Leaving Afghanistan.  Should we leave Afghanistan or should we leave Afghanistan now? Jahanzeb Hussain from Afghans for Peace and Brock McIntosh of Iraq Veterans Against the War and Afghanistan War veteran join us to talk about recent developments and the eventual American exit.  You may be surprised to hear what they have to say about exiting now, the Taliban and all other things related to the US presence in Afghanistan. Hear the segment here or press play below...
Don't forget to tune into our show next Wednesday at 7pm.Sponsors:

Premier Fight League
If you are in Miami this weekend, check out the MMA bouts at Grand Central on Friday, March 16th.  Click here for more info.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Beyond #Kony2012 and Afghanistan, should we leave or leave NOW?


Wednesday March 14 @ 7pm EST

Family!  It is that time again to bring you the real talk about the real issues that affect the lives of real people.

Tune in tonight to talk about...

1.  Is #KONY2012 corny for 2012?
When the #KONY2012 stuff first happened, our first thought is that if you want to know about Uganda, you should ask Ugandans first.  At LTAI, we try to practice what we preach so we spoke on the phone with journalist, blogger, and one of the first Ugandans to respond criticially of #KONY2012 via YouTube, Rosebell Kagumire. We will also hear from Jean Muteba Rahier, head of the African and African Diaspora Studies Program, Florida International University.

2.  Should US Troops leave Afghanistan or should they leave NOW?
This past week, a US soldier is accused of murdering 16 Afghan civilians.  This has prompted another debate about how soon US troops should pull out of Afghanistan.  To know more, it would make sense to talk to troops that actually served there and Afghans with family there...right?  So tune in as we talk to Brock McIntosh of Veterans for Rethinking Afghanistan and a special guest from Afghans for Peace.


We will update you about the march last week that brought together immigrant rights and civil rights leaders to commemorate the historic Civil Rights-era march between Selma and Montgomery.  We will also talk about a recent victory in the Florida legislature that involves NOT shackling pregnant mothers (huh? you say? tune in...).  Finally we will talk about a Miami Dade raid on local members of the Occupy movement that left many crying "overkill" and "wtf?"

You do not want to miss this show!  You know what to do...tune in and Let's Talk About It!!!


Premier Fight League
If you are in Miami this weekend, check out the MMA bouts at Grand Central on Friday, March 16th.  Click here for more info.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

AFTERMATH: Rush vs. the advertisers, vegans vs. meat eaters, and the trespass bill vs. us

Who wants beef?

Family, the show was ridiculous! More real talk about real issues.  If you missed it check it here or press play below.  If you never wanna miss our show again, SUBSCRIBE TO OUR PODCASTS!

1.  Rush vs. his advertisers
It looks like Rush Limbaugh flew off the handle again, but what made this case different and why are his advertisers fleeing? Angelo Carusone (Media Matters) joined us to discuss Rush’s most recent controversial rant and explains why it was in his words, “a reckless abdication of responsibility.” He also speaks on how he thinks the Rush Limbaugh business empire forces out local voices in media.  Click here to listen to the segment or press play below...

2. Food Fight! Vegans vs. Meat eaters
Alejandro Cantagallo (Chef and culinary instructor from New York) and Alex Cuevas (Owner of Choices Vegan Cafe and a practicing vegan of 26 years) square off in one the most epic vegan vs. meat eater debates you’ll ever hear. In spite of their disagreements, both guests agree that the industrial food system is broken and that meat is unfortunately very delicious.  Click here to listen or press play below... 

3. The Trespass Bill vs. Us
Why is it that the only thing our elected officials can agree on is the need to take away our rights? Shahid Buttar (Bill of Rights Defense Committee) joined us to discuss H.R. 347, better known as the “Trespass Bill,” and what this means for our First Amendment rights. He also talks about how this new bill is not as dramatic an assault on the First Amendment as the things that we’ve already gotten used to.  Click here to listen to the segment or press play below...

And don't forget to check out show, every Wednesday at 7pm est.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Vegans vs. Meat Eaters, Rush vs. Advertisers, and the Trespass bill vs. Us

Wed.  March 7th @7pm

Family! It's that time again.  You are not gonna wanna miss us tonight!

1.  Vegans vs. Meat Eaters
Everyday in big cities across the country you see vegan and vegetarian spots sometimes right next to a steakhouse.  There has been a raging debate amongst foodies worldwide about the benefits to body and earth from a vegan or vegetarian vs. a meat eating diet.  Today we either feel like settling it or adding more food for thought.  Join us as we talk to Chef and legacy Butcher Alejandro Cantagallo and Choices Vegan Cafe owner, Alex Cuevas, both friends of the show, about the virtues of beef vs. broccoli.

2.  Rush vs. His Advertisers
After years of building a multi-million person listener-ship and a million person hater-ship,  shock radio personality Rush Limbaugh is fighting to keep his advertisers after saying some nasty things about law student Sandra Fluke.  Does Rush deserve to get his wings clipped or is the advertiser exodus a bad omen for others that want to express their controversial opinions on air?  Find out as we talk with Angelo Carusone of Media Matters.

3.  Another bill to lock us up for protesting?
After all of the fuss about the effect of the National Defense Authorization Act on people expressing their First Amendment rights, it seems like Congress has cooked up another way to lock people up for expressing their thoughts.  It's called the Trespass Bill, and friend of the show Shahid Buttar (Bill of Rights Defense Committee) will be on to discuss the impacts this bill may have on Americans that want to speak their mind to their politicians.

You know what to do...tune in! Call in! and Let's talk about it!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

First They Spied on Black Cops, then on Muslims, and then…

By Subhash Kateel

The biggest mistake people make when talking about intelligence in this country (military intelligence, police intelligence, etc.) is assuming that it has anything to do with being intelligent.  Intelligence is only as good as the questions you ask.  Intelligence in a democracy is only as good as the questions that the public demands answers to.   To take it one step further, the only way that the public will really ask the right questions is if the media, and others that are supposed to inform the public, stop taking turns asking so many stupid questions and start asking the right ones.

When we find out that the largest local police force in the country is massively spying on people within and outside its jurisdiction that have never been suspected or accused of wrong doing, you would think that the media would ask the right questions.  But once you replace the word “people” with “Muslims,” it makes it ok for some media outlets not to do their job.  The recent revelation by the Associated Press that New York City Police Department is spying on Muslims in several states at their places of worship, businesses, and even at student group functions on camping trips brought a lot of condemnation from some circles (like the Republican Governor of New Jersey) and a surprising (sort of) amount of support from media outlets like the New York Post and the Daily News.  There was even a protest in support of the NYPD  organized by a Muslim physician from Arizona who jumped on a plane to New York to organize a rally in a city he doesn’t live in that brought out as many people as a Halal Chicken and Rice cart would during a slow lunch day.  Both editorials from the New York Post and the Daily News implicitly make the same point as an 18 year old that attended the rally, “I have trust in the N.Y.P.D. for following people with reasonable belief.”

Let me leave alone the fact that the NYPD doesn’t seem to reasonably believe that the people they are spying on have done or will do anything wrong, a point each person supporting the spy program casually ignores.  Even on my radio show, during a debate between the Council on American Islamic Relations’ Cyrus McGoldrick and Americans Against Hate’s (and candidate for Congress in South Florida) Joe Kaufman,  Mr. Kaufman professes a “hope” that the program isn’t just about targeting Muslims.  To the credit of Mr. Kaufman and that 18-year old from the rally, neither are journalists (although I do wish they would read the AP articles more thoroughly).  But even the media outlets that condemn the program don’t ask basic questions that would make it easier for regular folks to decide if the NYPD program is an insane breach of democratic principles or not. 

It’s really a simple set of questions:  Is there any reason to mistrust the NYPD spying on somebody?  Have they ever violated the public trust by spying on people for completely jacked up reasons?  Have they ever been accused of unlawfully spying on non-Muslims that were simply exercising their rights, let’s say for example...other police officers?

There is a really simple answer to each one of those questions: Yes.

For decades the NYPD was legally prevented, under the Handschu agreement, from spying on people that were simply exercising their constitutional rights after being sued for using surveillance to suppress and put down completely lawful protest.   Fine, you say, that was the 60’s and 70’s.

But shortly after 9/11, the NYPD was taken to court again for unlawfully spying on people, this time its “own  people.” You see, before Rudy Giuliani became “America’s Mayor” for doing nothing more than showing basic human emotion on 9/11, around the same time he was using taxpayer dollars to provide NYPD detail for his mistress  while blasting the morality of mothers on welfare, and shortly before he made millions from taking credit for things he didn’t do , his popularity in New York plummeted  after a rash of shootings of unarmed Black and Brown men by the NYPD under his watch.

What made the anti-police brutality rallies in New York during the late 90’s and early 2000’s different was that one of the groups at the forefront of the protests was an organization of Black cops calling themselves 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care .  The fact that Black police officers in the NYPD were calling for the same changes within the department that everyday New Yorkers were making on the street added a new layer of credibility to the persistent complaints of police misconduct.  You would think that Mayor Giuliani and his Police Commissioner Howard Safir would appreciate the courage of Lt. Eric Adams, the head of the organization, and other officers in the organization.  Instead, Adams and other cops in the organizations were subject to threats, intimidation, and surveillance.

At the time,  Lt. Adams stated, almost prophetically, “New Yorkers must know that if the police department can do this to a law enforcement body, it can do it to any citizen.” Despite being subject to intense surveillance by their own “brothers in blue,” there was never any evidence that any members of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement had done anything other than speak out against police misconduct.

The fact that the NYPD admits to spying on its own officers that did nothing wrong,  coupled with the fact that  ex-NYPD officers admit that planting evidence on suspects was rampant,  layered with the fact that five members of the NYPD were arrested in October for gun running, seems to be lost on the media and others that “hope” we should just “trust” the NYPD with running its own CIA. 

It seems that outlets like the Daily News temporarily lost the ability to google their own articles when praising the NYPD program.  They definitely lost the ability to ask simple questions like, “why would anyone blindly trust an agency that spied on its own officers for simply speaking out against police misconduct?”  If  the Post and the Daily News wanted to get even more creative they could ask if the NYPD is as vigilant about helping other jurisdictions solve their violent crimes as they are about spying in their backyards.  After all, there is a serial killer loose in Long Island, that some speculate might just be an ex-cop

This is not to say that all cops are bad, or that the NYPD is all bad.  But as it takes on bigger law enforcement tactics that are bolder and badder (I know it’s not a word) ideas, it makes it easier for even a few bad apples to do a lot more damage in the Big Apple and beyond.

If the NYPD wants to become a huge spy agency in order to stop terrorism, it should remember that the specific terrorism New York dealt with on 9/11 had at least a little to do with the bad decisions our spy agencies made in the 70’s and 80’s, giving guns to crazy people to kill Soviets  without asking where those guns would point afterward.

In a democracy, you won’t get an answer to questions you don’t ask.  For those of us that lived through 9/11, care about democracy, and care about really keeping people safe, it is time to ask questions…a lot of questions of people that just "hope" that we "trust" them.

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