Dean Obeidallah

Dean Obeidallah

Dean Obeidallah is a former lawyer turned political comedian and commentator. Dean has appeared on numerous TV shows including CNN, Comedy Central's "Axis of Evil" Special, Current TV's "The Young Turks," ABC's "The View," MSNBC's "Up With Chris Hayes," NBC's "Rock Center," and ABC's "Nightline." Dean has written articles for CNN.comThe Huffington Post, BBC Radio and written jokes which have appeared on NBC's "Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update" segment and CBS' "The Late, Late Show." He is also co-director of the soon to be released "The Muslims Are Coming!" Twitter: @deanofcomedy

Website URL: http://www.deanofcomedy.com

The Ferguson-Palestine Connection Grows

30 November 2014 Published in

By Dean Obeidallah

November 30, 2014

Ferguson, Missouri is over 6,000 miles from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, yet increasingly people are seeing similarities between the two. For example, shortly after the grand jury decision was announced Monday that the police officer who killed Michael Brown would not be indicted, the NFL’s Reggie Bush posted a photo on Instagram of a Palestinian man holding up a sign that read: “The Palestinian people know what mean to be shot while unarmed because of your ethnicity #Ferguson #justice.”  

Next to the photo, Bush added: “No matter who are you are, what color skin you have, where you live, we are in this together. This isn’t a Ferguson Problem, it’s a Global Problem... #JusticeforMike Brown.

In addition, one of the visible fixtures in the Ferguson protests has been Palestinian-American Bassem Masri who has been continuously live streaming the protests. That is until he was arrested a few days ago in connection with the protests. (He was released Saturday on bail.)

Social media has also been filled with Palestinians expressing solidarity for the Ferguson protesters and echoing their calls for justice. Some Palestinians even offered the Ferguson protesters tips on how to deal with the tear gas being shot at them based on their own experiences with the Israeli security forces.

Even on the Israeli side the similarities have been noted by some. For example, a “Times of Israel” op-ed penned by Robert Wilkes, a self described leader of the pro-Israel community in the United States, set forth what he viewed as “nine parallels between Palestine and Ferguson.” However, he saw the overlap of interests as being horribly negative.

For example, he wrote that US blacks and Palestinians “both wish to undermine the state’s moral authority by provoking violent reactions, then portraying themselves as victims of oppression.” He also opined, “both have perfectly wretched leaders. Black leaders in America are con artists and a disgrace,” going as far as calling them “race hustlers.”

Blacks being killed by the police in disproportionately high numbers is tragically nothing new. As Pro Publica recently noted, blacks age 15 to 19 have a 21 times greater change of being killed by the police than white teens. In fact the police have killed six African American teens since Michael Brown and that doesn’t even include Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy killed last week by the Cleveland police.

And more broadly, blacks of all ages are between three and four times more likely to be killed when they encounter the police than whites. Adding to the frustration is that it's rare that the police will be charged with a crime when they kill unarmed people. For example, between 2004 and 2008, Oakland police officers shot and killed 37 people, all black. And despite the fact that 40 percent of those killed were unarmed, not one police officer was charged with a crime.

In Israel, we see an unsettling similarity. As Sarit Michaeli, a spokesperson for the Israeli human rights group B’tselem recently told a reporter for McClatchy, it’s “extremely rare” for charges to be brought against Israeli border police or soldiers for killing Palestinians.

Two recent cases in Israel have caused even greater outrage than usual because they were caught on video. The most recent incident occurred in early November in the Israeli town of Kfar Kani, which is home to mostly Arabs. Khair al-din Hamdan, a 22 year old “Israeli Arab” was seen in a surveillance video carrying what has been described as a knife, which he used to bang on the window of a parked Israeli police car.

After a few moments, the four Israeli officers exited the vehicle, causing Hamdan to turn and walk away quickly. As can be seen in the video, one Israeli police officer then shot Hamdan several times in the back. After the shooting, the police can be seen dragging Hamdan’s limp body in the street to the police vehicle. Hamdan died a short time later.  An investigation into the shooting is under way but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials have publicly defended the killing of Hamdan.

And in May, two Palestinian teenagers were killed during protests when live bullets were shot at the protesters. Initially Israeli authorities denied that its forces had shot the bullets at issue. But a surveillance video was made public soon thereafter showing that one of the two teens was indeed shot by an Israeli border patrol officer.

Surprisingly, last week that border patrol officer was indicted for the killing of the one teen seen in the video. (But no charges were filled in the case of the other teen killed who was not depicted in the surveillance footage.) No doubt the video was the key.

Will the officer be convicted? Unlikely since per the Israeli paper Haaretz, in the past two years, 18 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank by Israeli security forces and only one was convicted. In that case the Israeli officer was sentenced to just seven months of jail after being found guilty of killing an unarmed Palestinian.

And as the Israeli NGO Yesh Din has documented, that penalty is actually on the high end. Among the 18 members of the Israeli security forces convicted of wrongdoing in the killings of Palestinians since 2000, most received a few months in jail or even simply a suspended sentence. (The exception being an eight year prison sentence handed out to one Israeli but that was in connection with the wrongful killing of a British citizen, not a Palestinian.)

I truly wish I could say that in the future we will see less black and Palestinian teenagers die at the hands of the police in their respective countries. But I can’t with any certainty. Tragically these stories will continue until a fundamental change in police tactics is implemented. The question is how many innocent people have to die before that happens?

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Dean Obeidallah is the editor of The Dean's Report. He is also is a former lawyer, turned political comedian/writer and a columnist for The Daily Beast.  He co-directed the recently released comedy documentary "The Muslims Are Coming!"  You can follow Dean on Twitter

__________________

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Why Didn't We Believe Cosby's Accusers Sooner?

21 November 2014 Published in

By Dean Obeidallah

November 21, 2014

The court of public opinion appears to have finally found Bill Cosby guilty of sexual misconduct.  I’m not saying that everyone believes every charge being leveled, but it seems clear that from social media, news coverage, etc., that most believe that Cosby did something horribly wrong with several women.

Even the entrainment industry that Cosby has made so much money for is cutting their ties to him-at least for now. NBC has pulled the plug on a sitcom they were developing to star Cosby. Netflix has shelved Cosby's new stand up special that was slated to premier next week. And Nick at Night has pulled reruns of “The Cosby Show” from its line up.

But here’s the thing: The allegations we are hearing now that Cosby drugged, molested or raped various women, for the most part, were revealed to the public years ago. Yet despite this information being known, NBC had no qualms entering into a new TV deal with Cosby, Netflix happily offered Cosby a brand new comedy special, and Nick at Nite still thought nothing of airing "Cosby Show" reruns. 

Plus fans were still buying tickets to his shows, including to a sold out show Thursday night, which surreally was a benefit for a women's organization. Adding to the bizarreness, while on stage, Cosby dedicated the show to his wife, yet he made no mention of the claims against him.

It’s not like the claims of these women against Cosby didn’t receive national media coverage. As quick refresher, there was Andrea Constand, a former Temple University employee, who alleged that Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her in his Philadelphia area mansion in 2004.

Despite the prosecutor’s decision not to indict Cosby, (It’s very challenging to secure a criminal conviction without more evidence than just one person’s word against another), Constand didn't simply go away. She filed a civil lawsuit in 2005 that included the claim that 13 other women, identified as “Jane Doe” to protect their identity, were prepared to testify at trial that Cosby had sexually assaulted them as well.  Cosby settled the case in 2006 by paying Constand an undisclosed amount.

Inspired by Constand, Barbara Bowman, one of 13 “Jane Does,” went public in 2006 with her claim that Cosby had drugged and raped her in the mid- 1980’s. Bowman's story, covered at the time by People magazine and the like, was that when she was an 18-year-old aspiring actress, Cosby had slipped drugs into her drink. The next thing she could recall was that she was undressed, wearing only a men’s white shirt and Cosby was in a robe.

Then there was Tamara Green, now an attorney, who came forward in 2005 after Constand went public with her claims. Green appeared on NBC’s “The Today Show” where she told Matt Lauer that Cosby attacked her in the 1970’s when she was an aspiring model. Green asserted that Cosby had put something in her drink and then tried to molest her.

And model, now reality show star Janice Dickinson, appeared on Howard Stern’s radio show in 2006 and said Cosby is “a bad guy, he's not a nice guy. He preys on women who just came out of rehab."  She refused to offer more details at the time, noting that she didn’t have the "shekels" of Cosby to fight a legal battle with him. (Dickinson finally revealed the details of the incident this week saying that in 1982 Cosby had drugged and raped her.)

Again all of these cases received national media coverage, however, there was no uproar like we see today.  

Is it because there was no social media back then? Was it because we liked Bill Cosby too much to believe he could commit such unthinkable acts?  

Or is it deeper? Is it because we live in a society where when three or even four women assert allegations of sexual misconduct it still is not sufficient to cause people to take the claims seriously? That’s likely why Dickinson and the numerous other women who have recently come forward to reveal similar incidents with Cosby didn’t go public until now. They, too, sensed that the public, media and entertainment industry could care less.

And maybe worse, these women felt that by taking on a beloved star like Cosby, they would be the ones attacked. We would hear them called gold-diggers, they would be “slut shamed” or asked why they didn’t fight back enough?

Even removing Cosby’s fame from this equation, many women have the same concerns causing them not reporting sexual attacks to the police. Yet still the number of women who have reported being sexually assaulted in the United States is simply staggering. The CDC reports that nearly 1 in 5 women have been raped or experienced a rape attempt at one time in their lives.

So next time you’re in a public place, look around for a moment and realize that it's likely that for every five women in that location, one has been sexually assaulted. That’s how jaw-droppingly high this number is.

It's unlikely that the women who suffered at the hands of Cosby will ever see true justice. But hopefully their stories will make us more believing when other women come forward in the future alleging sexual assault. Perhaps that will save some women – perhaps even your daughter or sister - from the same fate.

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Dean Obeidallah is the editor of The Dean's Report. He is also is a former lawyer, turned political comedian/writer and a columnist for The Daily Beast.  He co-directed the recently released comedy documentary "The Muslims Are Coming!"  You can follow Dean on Twitter

__________________

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GOP has to be feeling the heat today!

04 November 2014 Published in

By Dean Obeidallah

November 4, 2014

Republican leaders must be starting to sweat.   True, they are the favorites to win many key races today.  But here’s the thing: All the Democrats have to do is NOT lose more than five US Senate seats and the media will cast the Republicans as the BIG losers of this election.

And I’m not just talking the liberal media.  Just a few days ago conservative writer and Fox news regular Charles Krauthammer told us that if the Republicans can't win the Senate this year, "maybe the Party ought to look for another country."  

Consequently, anything but securing control of the Senate will be deemed a failure by both the left and the right.  And lets be honest: The GOP couldn’t have asked for a better political climate than this year. 2014 is like perfect political storm for the GOP to the point where GOP Senate minority Mitch McConnell should be sizing up Harry Reid’s office to decide how he wants to decorate it.

Obama’s approval ratings are at historic lows.  The economy is sputtering. Obamacare is still generally unpopular. The Democrats have to defend 21 seats to the GOP’s 15, many in States that Mitt Romney won in 2012.  And Republicans have a fundraising edge with almost $2 billion raised.

But here’s the thing: The polls are still very close in key battleground states that the Republicans thought they would likely win such as in Georgia, Louisiana, Alaska and North Carolina.  In fact, I was in North Carolina last week, and as I mentioned in my article for The Daily Beast yesterday, early voting numbers and polling there indicates that the Democratic Senator Kay Hagan will likely win.  If that happens, the GOP’s dreams of controlling the Senate will have become that much tougher. 

If Republicans pick up 5 seats this year– one less than they need to control the Senate – can’t they pick up the other seat in 2016 you ask? Nope.  In 2016 the Republicans will be defending 22 Senate seats to the Democrats nine.

Odds are that in 2016 the GOP will lose, not gain Senate seats given those numbers. And making it even more challenging is that many of the Republican Senators up in 2016 are in traditionally Blue States such as Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey, Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson and Illinois’ Mark Kirk.  So after this election, the next real shot the GOP of taking the Senate is 2018, at best.

So if the GOP doesn’t prevail in its race for the Senate what happens next?  Finger pointing central!  You can likely say goodbye to Reince Priebus as RNC Chair. 

Plus you will see some really pissed off Republican Senators.  Ted Cruz for starters who stands to become a subcommittee chair if GOP takes control of the Senate. Plus Marco Rubio and Rand Paul have a shot at full committee chairs.  This will provide all three with greater media coverage and in turn helps them raise funds for their expected run for president come 2016.  Failing to pick up the Senate deprives them of this benefit.  (Conversely it would likely be a boost to Republican Governors like Chris Christie seeking the presidential nomination angering these Senators even more.)

There you have it.  While the Democrats might look like they are like George Clooney in the movie The Perfect Storm watching a huge wave about to crash into his ship, all the Democrats have to do is avoid drowning and they will have won. And for that reason alone, I would predict that Republican leaders might be sweating a little more right now than they want us to know.

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Dean Obeidallah is the editor of The Dean's Report. He is also is a former lawyer, turned political comedian/writer and a columnist for The Daily Beast.  He co-directed the recently released comedy documentary "The Muslims Are Coming!"  You can follow Dean on Twitter

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To US media Canadian shooter being Muslim ends investigation

24 October 2014 Published in

By Dean Obeidallah

October 24, 2014

I really feel sorry for the journalists working in Canadian media who are reporting on Wednesday’s tragic shooting death of Corporal Nathan Cirillo.  You see, they are apparently required to do actual journalism to determine why the gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau killed the soldier. 

They were obligated to interview family and friends documenting Bibeau’s mental problems. They had to research his extensive criminal past and his struggles with drugs. They even were required to visit the homeless shelter Bibeau had been staying in before the shooting and interview people there who know him.

And, of course, they also mentioned that he was Muslim and the possibility of radicalization. But the Canadian media discussed his religion in the context of offering the public a full portrait of Bibeau and trying to understand his motivation.

In the United States, however, once the media finds out that a person involved in a horrible crime is Muslim, that's the end of the investigation. We don’t hear about mental issues, drug use, family problems, etc. To most in our media, if you are Muslim, then ergo, therefore, consequently, anything you do must, without a doubt, be because you are a Muslim.

For example, NBC news featured an article titled, “Who Is the Canadian Parliament Shooter?” The very first sentence of that article read: “The man who gunned down a Canadian soldier at the National War Memorial in Ottawa on Wednesday was a convert to Islam who had already been designated "high-risk" by authorities.”  (emphasis added.)

There you go: he was a “convert to Islam.”  Who needs anything more? And if you read the entire NBC article, there isn’t even a mention of the religion Bibeau converted from to Islam.  But I understand why-no one wants to sully the name of any other faith.

And CNN went as far as to tell us about a new phenomena I never heard of before to explain the possible reason for the shooting called: “Sudden Jihad Syndrome.”  Apparently any law abiding normal Muslim could suddenly and without warning become a jihadi!  I really hope pharmaceutical companies come out with a medicine to protect me from that condition before I contract it. Maybe they can call it, “Jihad begone” or “Jihad away.”

But as The Daily Banter’s Tommy Christopher pointed out, this term was not created by health care professionals. Rather, it was coined by the worst anti-Muslim bigots as a way to scare people into thinking that any Muslim could suddenly start waging a holy war. 

In contrast, Canada’s National Post ran a headline describing Bibeau as "a man troubled by drugs and crime.” The Post gave readers a sense that Bibeau was less of a calculated jihadi and more of a person plagued with a history of mental issues.

Canada’s CBC also offered the public a nuanced view of Bibeau apart from simply being a possible Islamic terrorist so that all possible causes could be considered.  

Canadian reporters, as shocking as this may be to American media outlets, even left the crime scene and travelled to a homeless shelter that Bibeau had been living in for a few days before the attack. There the reporters spoke to people who described the gunman as being “very bizarre.”  They also noted that the only reference Bibeau made to Islam was that everyone should pray five times a day “because the end of the world is coming.”

And when Islam was discussed by the Canadian media, they noted that Bibeau had been thrown out of a mosque for "erratic behavior."  They even included interviews with various Canadian Muslims denouncing Bibeau which, incredibly, media outlets like the CBC posted on the home page of its website.

Don’t get me wrong, the Canadian media did discuss the fact that Bibeau was Muslim and acknowledged the possibility he had been radicalized. But that was not the prime focus of the news reports. Rather, they painted a full picture of Bibeau as a homeless man with a criminal record, a history of drug problems, a person estranged from his family for years and noted the distinct possibility that he was mentally ill. 

Of course, apparently to the US media, Muslims can never be insane.  I guess we, Muslims, are immune to mental disorders.  Thus, everything a Muslim does is part of a calculated jihadi plot, not the work of a madman.

But when a non-Muslim in the United States commits a horrific shooting, such as at the Sandy Hook elementary school, the first thing our media typically does is provide us with a detailed mental analysis of the suspect. Why isn’t that also the case when the suspect is Muslim?

I’m not saying that Bibeau will not ultimately be determined to be a radicalized Muslim. But the Canadian media makes it clear that it will take an actual investigation to determine why this attack occurred besides just focusing on his religion and calling it a day.

Perhaps one-day members of our media will show the same level of responsibility and thoroughness as its Canadian counterparts. But until then, expect to see more investigations by our media end as soon it’s discovered that the suspect is a Muslim.

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Dean Obeidallah is the editor of The Dean's Report. He is also is a former lawyer, turned political comedian/writer and a columnist for The Daily Beast.  He co-directed the recently released comedy documentary "The Muslims Are Coming!"  You can follow Dean on Twitter.

__________________

Follow The Dean's Report on Twitter


I Found The Cure For Ebola-mania!

22 October 2014 Published in

By Dean Obeidallah

October 22, 2014

I hate to admit it, but I had Ebolamania.  I first noticed the symptoms a week ago.  I found myself worrying about being in large crowds for fear someone might have Ebola. I soon began to incessantly use hand sanitizer.  I even wondered if I could put some Purell on my fingers and insert them into my nose to kill germs.  (I wouldn’t recommend it!)

My Ebolamania really took hold of me this past weekend as I sat on a plane flying to California.  Every time I heard a person sneeze, visions of the pink and blue Ebola cells that are constantly on cable news danced through my head.

I highly doubt I was the only one on that plane suffering from this affliction. After all, the media and certain politicians – okay, Republicans - had done everything they could to make it seem like Ebola was going to kill us all.

Some have tried to offer us an antidote to Ebolamania. For example, The Daily Beast’s Michael Tomasky penned a must read article over the weekend about why Americans need to stop wetting their pants over the Ebola threat. (He said in a much more articulate way.) 

But for those not buying words of reassurance, we now have objective evidence that might just cure your Ebolamania. I know it helped me.

On Monday, 43 people who had come into contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who died in a Dallas hospital on October 8 from Ebola, have all been declared Ebola free. 

How can we be sure these people don’t have Ebola? Science. Okay, I know that for some on the right “science” doesn’t mean much, but for the rest of you, Ebola has a 21-day incubation period.  That time period has now passed and none of the 43 people who came in contact with Duncan have the disease.

True, some of these people only had casual contact with Duncan. But others had intense, hands on interaction with Duncan while he was horribly ill.  The most notable being Duncan’s fiancé, Louise Troh, her son and two nephews, who all lived with Duncan in a Dallas apartment since he had arrived in the United States on September 20.  

Within days, Duncan became very ill.  He was vomiting, had diarrhea and a high fever.  In fact, his condition was so alarming that Troh took Duncan to the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital on September 25.  However, for reasons still unclear, the hospital personnel sent Duncan home despite his 103 fever and other symptoms.   

Over the next two days, Duncan became even more ill, with his fever climbing to 104 degrees. Finally, on September 27, Troh’s daughter, a nurse’s aide, called 911 to have an ambulance transport Duncan to the hospital after she connected his symptoms to the outbreak of Ebola in Liberia.

Here’s the key info for those with Ebolamania.  Between Duncan’s arrival in Dallas on September 20 and hospitalization on September 27, Duncan shared the same space as Troh and the three boys while he was gravely ill. We are talking sharing the same bathroom, food plates, blankets, etc.  All without wearing any type of bio hazmat protections.

And not one of them is sick. Nor is Troh’s daughter who sat by Duncan’s bedside and cared for him the day he was finally hospitalized.

Now that we know this info, how will the GOP and media respond?

Keep in mind just last week Rand Paul painted Ebola as being akin to the Black Death with comments like, “it’s an incredibly transmissible disease that everyone is downplaying, saying it’s hard to catch.”  Adding, “we have physicians and health workers who are catching it who are completely gloved down and taking every precaution.” (Actually, only two nurses had contracted the disease, zero doctors. But why should facts matter when trying to scare people into supporting your run for President?!) 

We even had Republican Senator Ron Johnson opine that ISIS fighters might infect themselves with Ebola and come to America to spread the disease. The problem with this claim is that Ebola is only contagious when the disease’s symptoms have manifested, meaning you will be vomiting and have uncontrollable diarrhea.  And then, while gravely ill, you will need to wipe your bodily fluids on people hoping the disease somehow enters the person's system.  Doesn’t seem like Ebola is the ideal choice for a weapon.

In any event, don’t count on the GOP toning down its rhetoric or even mentioning the 43 people who were exposed to Duncan are now Ebola free.  After all, Republicans love to use fear, it’s two weeks before the midterm elections and a new Politico poll released Monday found that Ebolamania is playing well for the GOP. 

Okay, so then what about the media? Will they cover these 43 people with the same zeal they covered the two nurses who contracted Ebola? Nah.  This story has been barley mentioned in the media over the past two days.  Fear sells, it attracts ratings; assurances that all will be fine, not so much.

The greatest hope for those with Ebolamania is self-inoculation. Read the details about how Duncan’s fiancé and her family didn’t catch the disease even though Duncan was gravely ill while living with them in a small apartment.  Pay attention to the 43 others exposed to Duncan who don’t have Ebola. 

Also keep reminding yourself that to date, only 2 Americans out of the 300 plus million of us have caught Ebola.   Add to that, Nigeria was declared Ebola free on Monday after an outbreak began there in July. 

Perhaps these facts will prove to be the antidote for those suffering from Ebolamania.   As we now know, Ebolamania is far easier to catch than Ebola.  Thankfully, it can also be far easier to cure.

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Dean Obeidallah is a former lawyer, turned political comedian/writer. He's a columnist for The Daily Beast and the co-director of the recently released comedy documentary "The Muslims Are Coming!"  You can follow Dean on Twitter.

__________________

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What happens when the Sperm Bank makes the WRONG Deposit?

17 October 2014 Published in

By Seema Iyer, Esq.

October 17, 2014

Two lesbians and a black man walk into a sperm bank – sounds like the beginnings of a bad joke.  Unfortunately, it is the true reality for a couple in Ohio who sought to have a white baby by choosing a white male donor until the sperm bank made an irreparable error.

Jennifer Cramblett and Amanda Zinkon, a white couple, went to the Midwest Sperm Bank in the Chicago area and chose donor #380. They picked that donor because his coloring, blond-haired and blue-eyes, is similar to Zinkon.  The goal was obviously to have a baby that resembled them as much as possible.

As you probably figured out, the couple didn’t get donor #380. Instead, Cramblett was inseminated with sperm from donor #330, who was neither blonde hair nor blue eyed. In fact, the donor was actually a black male.  

The couple learned of the clinic’s mistake in the 5th month of the Cramblett’s pregnancy yet still decided to have the child, even if she would bear little resemblance to them physically.

So in 2012 the couple welcomed into the world baby Payton. A healthy baby girl that the couple says they love, “unconditionally.”  End of story, right?

Of course, not. It turns out while the couple was welcoming of Payton, not everyone in the 98 percent white community where they live shared those warm, fuzzy feelings.  (Apparently being a lesbian in the town is fine, as long as you’re a white one.)

Citing fear for the child’s future in an all-white school, the couple now want to move to a more diverse area.  And, as would be expected, the couple did what any red-blooded American would – they sued.

The couple’s lawsuit asks for $50,000 in damages that frankly seems quite reasonable for such a monumental blunder.  To be clear, donor #380 was substituted for donor #330 because a “3” and an “8” look alike when handwritten because Midwest Sperm Bank’s records are HANDWRITTEN.  There is no computer database to hold what is supremely private, personal information - just a bunch of papers probably mis-alphabetized in a file cabinet.

How can this be??? Don’t sperm banks have to abide by certain regulations?  Yes they do.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) started regulating reproductive tissue banks in 2005.  The FDA rules include protocols for screening and testing donors as well as record-keeping.  The FDA also audits sperm banks through site inspections to insure compliance.  And most major sperm banks are licensed and inspected by states.

Still, am I the only person who thinks this has got to have happened before?  Whether it’s a mix-up, mistake or what Jason Bateman did to Jennifer Aniston in The Switch. (If I can admit I’ve seen it 12 times, you can admit you’ve seen it once.) I am not all that surprised in what I originally thought was a more common method of conception.

There are no industry-wide statistics on the number of anonymous donors inseminated births per year - strange, no? The media often reports it as 30,000-40,000 annually, whereas the American Association of Tissue Banks states it to be only between 4,000-5,000 (based on 1.5 vials per insemination, a 10% pregnancy rate per cycle and a 20% spontaneous miscarriage rate.) 

Cramblett and Zinkon’s lawsuit foreshadows a stifling future if Payton is to be raised in their small “racially intolerant” town.  But should that be the couple’s only concern?  Doesn’t simply being a child that is a partial product of an anonymous donor have other long-term repercussions?

In 2010 the Institute For American Values published a study on young adults conceived through sperm donation.  “My Daddy’s Name is Donor” examines multiple facets of the donor child’s experience and whether a connection exists to how they were conceived.  The study found that the children “fare worse than their peers raised by biological parents on important outcomes such as depression, delinquency and substance abuse.” 

While 45% overall reported that it bothers them that money was exchanged for their conception, children born to heterosexual or lesbian couples seemed to “hurt” less than those born to single mothers.  Yet practically half (47%) of donor offspring are concerned that their mothers may have lied about “important matters” while growing up, compared to only 27% of the adopted and 18% with biological parents. 

Cramblett and Zinkon are worried about raising their biracial daughter in a rural homogeneous area which unquestionably is a valid concern.  But apparently that is only one of many issues when having a donor child.  The lawsuit has two causes of action; breach of warranty, which is basic contract law, and wrongful birth.  Ouch.  How is a grown-up Payton going to feel about that one?

This intersection of law, race, sexuality, medicine and parenting has prompted interesting debate and criticism but it isn’t just part of the news cycle; it is going to define a baby girl’s life.  If Midwest Sperm Bank wants to keep its best swimmers in stock, they will settle this case thereby allowing Cramblett and Zinkon to relocate.  And then maybe buy a computer so this type of error never occurs again. 

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Seema Iyer is a criminal defense & civil rights attorney with her own lawfirm in NYC.  Seema appears frequently on MSNBC, HLN, FOX and CNN as a legal analyst. Follow her on Twitter @seemaiyeresq


A Muslim's open letter to Bill Maher

13 October 2014 Published in

 

By Faryal Malik

October 13, 2014

Dear Bill (I hope you dont mind if I call you Bill because its the nicest word I can use to describe you at this point):

We get it. You are an aggressive atheist. You abhor religions. For you it is fashionable to be controversial. Being edgy is part of your job description. Congratulations, you are now so edgy that Bill OReilly of Fox News agrees with your views. Bill the Liberal and Bill the Conservative have now found common ground Islamophobic Bigotry.

Let me ask you, Bill, are you back-paddling out of the muddy creek you created on your HBO Show Real Time With Bill Maher last weekend with your recent remarks: Were liberals! Were liberals? Were not crazy tea-baggers, yknow.Your definition of a liberal and the responsibility of being one, is as ludicrous as ISISs distorted execution of Islam. You said: "Liberals need to stand up for liberal principlesthese are liberal principles that liberals applaud for [pointing to his audience], but then when you say in the Muslim world this is whats lacking, then they get upset."

When did principles like freedom of speech, freedom to practice any religion…” become principles defended only by liberals? Your guest on the show Sam Harris added, Liberals have really failed on the topic of theocracy…” Theocracy failed by liberals? Pandering much? These principlesyou throw around are U.S. constitutional rights championed by all liberals, non-liberals and anyone in between. Why must a liberal have a duty to criticizebad ideas where Islam is the mother lode of bad ideasaccording to Harris? Feel free to stereotype almost 1.6 billion people worldwide because this is your God-given liberal duty? Really?

Since you have been pushing the envelope of bigotry, increasingly so in the past few years, I am glad Ben Affleck called you on it, if only to open a door for fair discussion. Go ahead and instigate debate on the general uselessness of religions. You may think Muslims cant take a joke or two. Wecan. What upsets themis the persistent spin of Islamic views and utter lack of knowledge of the diverse 1.6 billion people so conveniently generalized and stereotyped. 

Bill, can I ask you a simple question: what does the Muslim Worldlook like to you? What is the color, race, age, or gender of the 1.6 billion people you casually label as they? Cant answer this question? Dont worry, there is no easy answer because we are not as homogeneous as you would make everyone believe usto be.

It seems that sometimes you are so in love with your own views that you argue to spread bigotry and not to understand the multitudes of varied Muslims who universally champion human rights and all the liberal principlesyou mentioned. What would you accomplish by asking liberals to criticize 1.6 billion people? Present the caricature of Islam and Muslims as one homogeneous evil and intolerant group of 1.6 billion people?

Stop propagating hate by equating a small subset of 1.6 billion people to the whole of 1.6 billion people. This concept is not rocket science. But let me simplify it even further. Would you say: All creatures of the sea are sharks? No, you wouldnt because it is false and presents an incomplete picture of all the creatures of the sea. You are being immensely unintelligent when you lump together what you perceive to be us. I suggest you do your research, use your writers to provide credible, fair and historically correct information.

Now, Bill, you said: the only religion that acts like the mafia, that will fucking kill you if you say the wrong thing. Do you even realize how unintellectual this statement is? A religion in itself cant act like a mafia only individual elements can. And no, I will not fucking kill you(as you hypothesized) because I think you said a wrong thing. But I will not laugh either because Islamophobic bigotry is not funny.

Lets address the white elephant in the room you so enjoy to beat to death. Yes, Muslims face an array of issues based on their region of residence and geo-economical factors. Yes, a radical element has taken a very sadistic turn, and unfortunately shaped up to be ISIS or the Taliban or the numerous other fundamental groups and regimes, the majority of Muslims also abhor and stand up against. Thank you for highlighting ad nauseum the horrors of the Muslim Worldbut for the sake of variety lets also talk about the majority of the 1.6 billion Muslims who are peaceful and tolerant. For example, talk about the fact that five out of the last twelve Nobel Prize winners have been Muslims, out of which 3 were Muslim women. Focus on these Nobel Prize winners who do not represent the horrendous minority segment you love to highlight to spread Islamophobic bigotry. 

Can you please stop making each and every Muslim accountable for the actions of the small unrepresentative minority. Stop stereotyping. And stop spinning what a Muslim may or may not believe. Understand, for example, I as a female Muslim, have not been brainwashed and I definitely dont need to be rescued by a liberallike yourself.

And please, do not act like I dont exist. Muslim women exist and excel in many shapes and forms all over the world. We do have grievances and issues just as women of any faith or set of beliefs, in any part of the world. But the issues we face are as diverse as the colors we are. In veils, in scarfs or in skirts (depending on which premium cable and satellite television you follow) we have arrived. And we are here to stay. So might as well acknowledge and embrace our diversity.

In closing Bill, I request you to invite scholars to engage in a calm conversation about Islam to present real and representative views from all sides, and most importantly without the predisposed Islamophobic bigotry.

What do you say, Bill?

Salaam,

Faryal Malik 

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Faryal Malik is an Intellectual Property attorney by profession and an avid backpacker by passion. She aspires to be kind, humble and generous to attain peace in the journey of life. She tweets @desinewyorkers

 

                                                                                            


 

 


 

 

                                                                                            

 


The Islam You Don't Know

11 October 2014 Published in

By David Peduto 

October 11, 2014

I can see where a man like Bill Maher is coming from when it comes to Islam. As he would have it, Islam is a violent religion that runs counter to all that we as Americans hold dear – freedom, justice, democracy. Of course, he is not alone in this assessment. Indeed, such a view is a majority opinion among non-Muslim Americans.

It’s an opinion that, as a child of 9/11, I grew up believing too.

But then I grew up.

My understanding of what Islam is and who Muslims are changed from being obscured by the gore of terrorism to one more rooted in reality. The slime of stereotype applied by those who touch topics in the most superficial of ways was replaced by revelations of actual experience. I took Arabic in college, took courses on the Middle East and Islam, and even studied abroad in Egypt. Then I lived in Pakistan. I worked in Islamabad which, translated, means the “Abode of Islam.”

Now, let me get something straight. I’m a Christian American, which are two things we’ve been taught that people like those Muslims in Pakistan just don’t like. In our current understanding of Islam, I’d fall into the category of the kuffar, or “the unbelievers.” As such, to all those who view Islam as evil, I should be put to death by all able-bodied Muslims. Anywhere. So how is it that a young kid like me could possibly survive even a day in the very den of this vile religion?

My answer: putting faith in people. This faith was backed by an effort to understand their state, their position, and their history so as to more aptly engage in what many would see to be a hostile environment. I did not go to Pakistan as some imperialistic, ignorant American. I went to learn and to represent my country by representing myself as best I could. That required me to live as a regular citizen. No bodyguards, no compound, no gun.

But in an effort to break my own stereotypes of this place and this religion, I had to work to show Pakistanis a different side of America than what they may be used to. Think about it: if you were a Muslim in Pakistan, what would you think when you think about America? Apple pies and the Fourth of July? Hardly. You’d think of soldiers, drones, ignorance, and probably a Big Mac. I worked hard to share a different side of the States, which I believe enabled me to see a different side of Pakistan and Islam than what I previously accepted as fact. As a result, I had an incredibly positive time in this “ally from hell” of ours. My experiences may well go beyond anything that those hung up on this hatred of Islam could comprehend.

Truly, my experience there was an introduction to an Islam that I never knew. It’s an Islam that, unfortunately, so many at home in the States seem too stubborn to ever want to know. But I have a few questions for these folks that might shed some light on the Islam that they never knew existed.

To those who believe that Islam is the antithesis of Christianity, I ask if you’ve ever heard the solemnity of the call to prayer. I wonder if you wish peace upon others (a common greeting among Muslims the world over) more than once a week in church. I yearn to know if you disown Terry Jones (the man who burned the Quran a few years ago) to the same extent that you ask Muslims the world over to speak against the self-proclaimed Muslims that all Islamist terrorists are.

To those who see Islam as anti-democratic, how is that we allow ourselves to define Islam by a few unelected individuals who no more represent someone’s faith than Donald Trump represents America? If we believe in democracy at home, surely we must apply it to our portrayal of others.

To those who see Islam as anything but tolerant, how is that we tolerate ourselves so carelessly referring to a “Muslim world,” as if all Muslims existed on another planet? Such convenient phrasing serves to externalize over a billion people in the one world in which we all live. When we use such intergalactic references, we’re not talking about Muslims anymore – we’re talking about Martians. We need to bring this conversation back to earth – this earth.

Islamophobia is real, it is a problem, and it’s a really big problem. The fact that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world should not be a concern to us; rather, it should serve as a reminder of the importance to understand it better. This necessary understanding need not involve going to Pakistan, but it absolutely requires another proud American trait of ours: courage.

We would do better to muster the mental courage to think beyond what the pundits and the pols might say about a certain place or a certain religion. When we assume this courage and are no longer beholden to stereotype, we can make our own determination of the world. We can change what we think we knew about Islam by allowing ourselves to seeing the reality so readily available to us.

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David Peduto is a student of Islam, the Middle East, and Arabic. He lives in Boston where, when he's not working for a Big Data company, he enjoys paddle boarding on the Charles River and performing improv comedy.

How To Get Away With Playing a Defense Attorney: an Insider's look at How To Get Away With Murder

09 October 2014 Published in

By Seema Iyer, Esq.

October 9, 2014

How To Get Away With Murder, the latest venture in Shonda Rhimes’ quest for network television domination, stars Viola Davis as Criminal Defense Attorney/Professor Annalise Keating.  As a real-life defense attorney and former prosecutor I am always curious to see how accurately the criminal justice system is portrayed in entertainment.  They usually get it wrong – and this show is no exception.

Now before everyone jumps all over me, let me begin by declaring I am a fan of all things Shonda.  I still adore Greys Anatomy (that’s right, where are the rest of you, huh???) I continue to mourn the end of Private Practice (why, oh why, God did You take Dr. Taye Diggs away, God – WHY??!) And I never miss a solitary second of Scandal.  So despite my inclination to reject another lawyer show….I live Law & Order folks, I don’t need it in my free time…I decided to take a gander for no other reason than Viola teaming up with Shonda is an epic meeting of mighty females. 

Five minutes into the pilot I was renaming the show, How To Get Away With Playing A Defense Attorney.  Definitely less OMG than WTF?! And by the second episode I compiled a list of why I reasonably doubt the premise of Shonda’s new gig.  Ladies and Gentleman – here are your Top 10:

1.  The Field Trip

In the first episode Annalise takes her entire law school class to interview her client accused of attempted murder……uhhhh…..WHAT?????  People – this would NEVER happen.  First off, the client would never agree to it; but putting that aside each student becomes a potential witness.  The attorney-client privilege does not attach because at that point none of the students were working there.  Each student could be called by the prosecution to testify (don’t say they would never find out because they always do) and those little notebooks they were eager beaver scribbling in would also have to be turned over to the prosecution.

2.  Where is Magnum PI? 

Criminal defense attorneys do not have 1st year law students collecting evidence.  They’re barely equipped to make coffee (or maybe that was just me?).  If any of those knuckleheads were to get injured/threatened/in trouble it’s the attorney who faces a malpractice suit, disciplinary action or worse, suspension from the Bar.  Further, if you don’t have an investigator and lose at trial, the attorney could face an ineffective counsel claim on appeal.  Luckily Connor bed the IT geek to get an email, Michaela impersonates an insurance rep breaking health privacy laws and Annalise wins the case. 

3.  Reality Check

Professor Keating uses her own, open, ACTIVE, PENDING cases to teach her criminal law class.  Through a power point the case photos, evidence and crime scene are displayed.  So. Much. Wrong.  It’s a violation of professional conduct, the code of ethics, undoubtedly attorney-client privilege and just plain dumb.  Equally perplexing is that Annalise asks the students for help on these cases; a seasoned, skilled 40-something-year-old trial attorney is asking for Romper Room’s assistance.  Really.  That would happen.

4.  Fashion Police

Who doesn’t love a tight, sleeveless dress on the body of Viola Davis?  Any Judge in America that’s who!  Relax feministas.  The unwritten rules are for both male and female lawyers in the courtroom – sleeves are just one of them.  There is no way any Judge would let a lawyer strut around inside the courtroom like that, especially on trial.  Point of fact, I almost had a Judge refuse to allow me to do an arraignment because I had a sweater on instead of a suit jacket (arraignments is a smelly, dirty, lively circus where I don’t bring my best duds).  A male attorney friend once went into night court (yes, that’s a real thing) with a jacket sans tie; the Judge then ordered him to put on a tie if he wanted his case called.  Luckily Canal Street, with an impressive $10 selection of menswear, is around the corner.

5.  “You’re only as good as the people you hire” – Ray Kroc

By now you’ve become weary of my repetitive ‘this would never happen.’  So I will pause it.  Let’s just examine the facts: after about a month of being in law school Annalise hires 5 students from her introductory criminal law class.  Five children who at that point in their studies don’t know the difference between a brief and a bong hit.  She’s known them for what twenty minutes?  Yet she entrusts them with her home, her office and her career.  Jeez, I went through a more rigorous application process to work at Dairy Queen.

6.  Sleeping with the Enemy

Annalise has a husband and a boyfriend – remember that no so subtle introduction to Detective Nate?  The defense attorney sleeping with the cop isn’t the most likely scenario because after being a defense attorney for a while you start drinking the Kool Aid.  You start believing the cops really did frame your client, beat a confession out of him and hid evidence.  Defense attorneys don’t often mingle with the fuzz.  On the other hand, as a prosecutor it’s practically a rite of passage to sleep with a cop (so I’ve heard).  And although the prosecutor-defense attorney affair is cliché it is completely accurate (hey, stop pointing fingers!) and rampant in the courthouse.  Well, maybe not in the courthouse.  Actually……

7.  CSI

Apparently they were on vacation during the second episode.  The crime scene is a bedroom where the defendant, played by Steven Weber, allegedly killed his wife.  The bedroom is left ‘as is’ replete with bloody linens, walls and carpets.  This is not just reality ridiculous – anyone who watches anything knows that evidence WITH BLOOD ON IT is collected!  And remember when one of her legal genius law students suggests retesting for DNA.  After you’ve rolled around in the bed?  Great idea, kiddo.

8.  The Bail Out

Why are all the murderers out???  In the first episode the crime was attempted murder, the defendant appeared wealthy and it was probably her first arrest so perhaps she was able to pay the high bail.  But Steven Weber’s character in the second episode?  Very little chance bail would have been set; he would have been remanded to stay in jail while awaiting trial as is often the case with murder.  The Court would have looked at his ability to flee the country, that the murder occurred in his home and that he was accused of murdering his first wife.  At least make the guy where an ankle bracelet! 

9.  Rap It Up

I am almost done with the #HTGAWM bashing, but this is a big one.  In the second episode Annalise finds out, in the middle of trial, that Weber’s character was accused (and actually did it) of killing his first wife in Switzerland.  In the middle of trial.  Why didn’t she know this before?  Either her client didn’t tell her or she didn’t find out - because she doesn’t have an investigator!  Result is that Annalise Keating looks like a bad defense attorney.  And the prosecutor is obligated to have turned  the rap sheet over wayyyyy before trial.  Pulling that kind of stunt mid-trial has mistrial written all over it.

10.  Innocent until proven Guilty

Professor Keating opened last week’s show with: "The question I’m asked most often as a defense attorney is whether I can tell if my clients are innocent or guilty? And my answer is always the same: I don’t care."  Now that is real!  Truly we don’t care.  It has nothing to do with the job and as the Prof. correctly explains it is because our clients, like everyone, “lie”.

So there you have it.  My real-life criminal defense attorney perspective of How To Get Away With Murder.  Will I continue to watch?  Of course.  Even though it may be off base it’s Shonda.  And Viola.  I just wish someone would create an accurate portrayal of the criminal justice system and realize, - the truth is way more fun than fiction.

[Sidebar – for an authentic depiction of a criminal defense attorney’s life see The Lincoln Lawyer with Matthew McConaughey]

_______________________________

Seema Iyer is a criminal defense & civil rights attorney with her own lawfirm in NYC.  Seema appears frequently on MSNBC, HLN, FOX and CNN as a legal analyst. Follow her on Twitter @seemaiyeresq

University of Chicago Students are at War!

03 October 2014 Published in

By Seema Iyer, Esq.

October 3, 2014

There is a war going on at University of Chicago on social media. And here’s the part that should concern you: Your own freedom of speech might just be a casualty in this battle.

Last week, University of Chicago students published The Hyde Park List, via Tumblr, with names of men who have allegedly committed “varying levels of gender-based violence.” This list, complete with color-coded threat levels, was quickly taken down. But as it seems as with so many things posted online, it reappeared a few days later. This time there were more names added and the list was soon circulated on the university’s campus.

In retaliation, the "UChicago Electronic Army" hacked into a student club’s website, targets one of the victims and promises to “rape harder.” Nice.

These students are at war with each other, albeit a war of words, yet one that raises the question – do we have the right to accuse, threaten or harass using social media as a shield and our language as the sword?

The First Amendment includes Freedom of Speech aka Freedom of Expression which allows us the ability to communicate our ideas and opinions through words or action without the government butting in. (I believe the technical term is ‘restriction.’)   Presumably the Hyde Park List was disseminated to warn, to inform and, perhaps also, to send a message that the University of Chicago was not doing enough to safeguard its students.

Here’s the thing: despite what many believe, freedom of speech does not mean the government can never stop you from saying certain things. No, our government can impose constitutionally permissible limits on freedom of speech in a few settings. For example, you can’t go running into a crowded movie theater and yell “FIRE.” That very point was made in the seminal 1919 U.S. Supreme Court decision of Schenck v. U.S. which tells us that you cannot incite actions that would harm others. Makes sense.

So what about the kids from UC? Who is protected by the First Amendment? The listmakers or the hackers?

The short answer is maybe both. The Hyde Park list on Tumblr enjoys more First Amendment protection because it is off school grounds. The problem arises when the list is displayed on campus. Speech in schools is often restricted-even with public schools.

Over the years the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the principal can prevent articles in the school newspaper from going to print (Hazlewood School District v. Kuhlmeier, 1988) and students can neither make potty-mouth speeches (Bethel School District #43 v. Fraser, 1986), nor encourage “bong hits” at school sponsored events (Morse v. Frederick, 2007).

Does this mean students do not have constitutional rights? No, they do. But just not to the same extent as adults.

For instance, when the students in the 1969 landmark case of Tinker v. DesMoines protested the Vietnam War by wearing armbands, the U.S. Supreme Court found in favor of the students. After all, political speech is the essence of Freedom of Speech; it will only be prohibited in a school setting if it disrupts the educational process.

So listmakers, Tumblr was the better choice. But before we address the hackers, it must be asked, did the listmakers consider a possible defamation lawsuit by the men on the list? I am all about taking justice into your own hands folks – just don’t get them too dirty.

Certainly the men will claim their reputations, relationships and vocations have suffered but alas ‘truth’ really is a defense. And I wager that none of the men will force the listmakers to prove up the accusations…..that only occurs when a statement is false…..I’m just saying.

Leading us to the obvious inquiry; are the men on the Hyde Park list the UChicago Electronic Army undercover or simply employed to do the dirty work? Akin to ‘murder for hire’ maybe now there are ‘Hackers For Hire’ - a techy team of hit men.

Nonetheless, was the UChicago Electronic Army’s post protected by the First Amendment? Considering they hijacked a student club’s website, the parameters of school regulated speech kick in. The hackers would have been better off making their violent, vile threats on social media the way the law now stands. The U.S. Supreme Court says only “true threats” are not entitled to constitutional protection. I regretfully acknowledge that “rape harder” appears to be a generalized threat, though the targeting of one of the victims does evince some actual intent.

This brings us to the SCOTUS fall lineup preview. The Supreme Court will be examining this precise issue, of intent in threats on social media in Elonis v. U.S. Mr. Elonis was prosecuted for rap lyrics, that read and sound like specific threats, on Facebook. But was that his intent? Or just some warped semblance of artistic expression? The lower courts said it does not matter. Will the Supreme Court agree? Stay tuned.

Remember there is a difference between what we can say and what we shouldn’t say. Every day that line is crossed online because it is so blurred. While one can rightfully claim Freedom of Speech does that give us the right to put others in fear? Not too long ago we didn’t have social media as a vehicle for vengeance or salvation. For some it voices a plea for help from a system that is failing them; for others it is a mask that both hides and spreads hate.   Either way, it is simply – Freedom.

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Seema Iyer is a criminal defense & civil rights attorney with her own lawfirm in NYC.  Seema appears frequently on MSNBC, HLN, FOX and CNN as a legal analyst. Follow her on Twitter @seemaiyeresq


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