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Civil Rights / Liberties
By Dave Lindorff
When it comes to justice in America, the scales definitely badly need a visit by an inspector from the Department of Weights and Standards.
Consider the recent decision by Federal Judge Ricardo Urbina tossing out the federal indictment of five Blackwater (Now Xe) mercenaries for the 2007 slaughter of 14 innocent Iraqis in Baghdad.
The judge found that federal prosecutors had improperly used incriminating statements which he said had been “compelled” from the Blackwater personnel under “threat of job loss.”
The use of Tasers has become increasingly controversial over the last year, following high-profile cases such as the Tasering of a 10-year-old girl who had refused to take a shower and video of a 72-year-old great-grandmother who was Tasered following a driving offense. Now a federal appeals court in San Francisco has set down new rules for when police officers are allowed to use Tasers. In particular, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Tasers can’t be used simply to force a non-violent person to bend to an officer’s will. The court’s reason was that Taser’s X26 stun gun inflicts more pain than other “non-lethal” options:
The physiological effects, the high levels of pain, and foreseeable risk of physical injury lead us to conclude that the X26 and similar devices are a greater intrusion than other non-lethal methods of force we have confronted.
The ruling followed a case in which an officer Tasered a man named Carl Bryan after pulling him over for driving with an unbuckled seat belt. Bryan was verbally abusive, but obviously unarmed and non-violent....
“It sounds like this court is attempting to raise the bar for non-lethal use of force,” retired Los Angeles Police Department Captain Greg Meyer told the Los Angeles Times. The ruling specifies that the Taser X26 and similar devices should only be used where there is “strong government interest [that] compels the employment of such force.” This rules out any situation in which there are alternative means of dealing with the situation. Some may see the new ruling as a great step forward for human rights. But there are reasons to be a little more cautious. Read more.
Backward, Into Fear
by Missy Comley Beattie
I know with certainty that Uman Farouk Abdulmutallab, charged with attempting to take down Flight 253, is not responsible for the confiscation of a can of black-eyed peas I was trying to slide past airline security. That rule—the one about liquids—was already in place. Incentive to slip the beans through was derived from information I learned from a prior flight, one taken with my best friend who decided she didn't want to remove her computer from her carryon. Nor did she put her must-haves in clear plastic for public scrutiny. No one said a word as her bag was scanned. In fact, she easily retrieved her luggage, while I grappled with my laptop, trying to balance it and put it back in its case as I struggled to step into my shoes and, finally, reach for my cell phone, jacket, and plastic bag filled with lots of little bottles.
The young Nigerian is, however, the reason my plane (the same trip the peas were seized) was delayed this week. Because when passengers lined up to board, anyone with a bottle of water, cola, or juice, was pulled aside to have their beverages tested for explosives. One woman asked if her water would still be safe to drink after the strange strip of white whatever was magically waved over the open bottle by an agent whose hands were imprisoned in surgical gloves. How styoopid, I thought. But, then, she had a point—those gloves must have been transferring an accumulation of microbes from container to container.
Okay, I've digressed. I really meant to write about the event—you know, the one to scare Americans and highlight the gaping holes in our security. Because there were some missed opportunities. For example, the father of the “terrorist” had alerted authorities that he was concerned about the behavior of his extremist son. That's seriously reliable, like delivering him to a detention center and saying, “Our bad seed wants to blow up a passenger plane over the United States.”
But certain links weren't made by people trained to make sure certain links are always made.
Officials who consistently speak on condition of anonymity now agree with 20/20 hindsight that given all the information they had about Abdulmutallab, he should never have been allowed on that aircraft.
I bet he could have gotten a can of black-eyed peas into Detroit. But I've digressed again.
Where I'm going with all this is to an analysis of Obama's brilliant revelation: “A system failure occurred and I consider that totally unacceptable.”
You see, our Deciders and those we label “the bad guys” have a symbiotic relationship, the basis of which is both real and imagined: real because they are trying to knock each other off and imagined because they rely on propaganda.
It’s a brilliant strategy if you think about it. Make the public afraid of each other. Every person could be a terrorist - everyone is suspect. There is no better way to defeat an organized anti-war opposition than to make the people terrified of each other.
The corporate oligarchy is now doing under Obama what it could not accomplish under Bush. Total war. The anti-Bush movement in the US and worldwide was gaining too much ground. So the oligarchy let the air out of that balloon. In Bush’s place they put in a magician who has proved very effective at keeping the left off balance and thus unable to pump new life into the reeling anti-war movement.
So now it’s Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Somalia and Yemen. Next could be Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. National Public Radio (NPR) reporter Tom Gjelten did a story called “Afghan War Could Spill Over Into Central Asia” on December 31 that upped the fear meter and brought back the Vietnam-war era worry of the “domino theory”. You must watch the slight of hand...the modus operandi in action again.
Bush, or John McCain for that matter, would have been resisted at every step of this new escalation. But many “progressives” are frozen into place by the handiwork of the magician and a deferential Congress under the control of the other war party. The “execution” of this masterstroke has worked as well as the insides of an expensive Swiss watch.
The oil and military industrial oligarchy have created a situation where the public is so primed for fear by the slavish media that they are ready to strip their constitutional rights down to the bare bone in order to be “protected” by big daddy.
WHO/WHEN/WHERE: Join fellow citizens from Virginia civil rights and social justice organizations for a rally in downtown Richmond on Thursday, January 7th, 2010 at 900 East Broad Street, Richmond, VA 23219 starting at 6pm.
RSVP at: Rally - Restore Our Vote
WHY: There is an urgent matter that Governor Kaine must address before he leaves office on January 16 - voter restoration. Not only are Virginia and Kentucky the only two states in the USA that do not automatically restore the vote to ex-felons, we have recently learned that Governor Kaine has refused to restore the right to vote even to non-violent ex-felons who have completed their sentences and who have submitted completed applications to restore their vote merely because they have had moving violations, not misdemeanors or felonies, within the past 3 to 5 years.
This policy, finally revealed to Frank Anderson as the reason his application to restore his vote was denied, must be reversed. The right to vote should not be denied because of speeding tickets! Indeed, Governor Kaine has the clear legal authority under the Virginia Constitution to issue a blanket restoration of the right to vote for as many of the 300,000 currently disenfranchised ex-felons as he wants through the issuance of an Executive Order. Please ask him to do so before leaving office by going to the following website: www.restoreourvote.org.
"As part of his attempt to become a full-fledged citizen following his 1999 burglary conviction, Frank Anderson began volunteering for political campaigns.
"Tim Kaine was the first Virginia candidate I ever worked for," said Anderson, 32, who knocked on doors and made phone calls during Kaine's successful run for governor.
Anderson, who is studying public administration at George Mason University, said he also has helped register about 200 voters. But when Anderson applied to have his own voting rights restored, he was rejected in December 2008.
Aware that he would have to wait two years to reapply, he sought an explanation." Read Full Story.
Sarah Rector: The Richest Colored Girl in the World
By Stacey Patton | Defenders Online
“Oil Made Pickaninny Rich – Oklahoma Girl With $15,000 A Month Gets Many Proposals – Four White Men in Germany Want to Marry the Negro Child That They Might Share Her Fortune.” This headline, which appeared in The Kansas City Star on January 15, 1914, was just the first of many newspaper and magazine headlines during the next decade about Sarah Rector, the richest black child known to the world in that era.
In September, 1913, The Kansas City Star reported: “Millions to a Negro Girl - Sarah Rector, 10-Year Old, Has Income of $300 A Day From Oil,” and The Savannah Tribune ran: “Oil Well Produces Neat Income – Negro Girl’s $112,000 A Year.”
In 1914 and 1915, the Salt Lake Telegram, The Oregonian and American Magazine profiled the “bewildered little ten year-old girl” and told of how she inherited her “big income” but still wore tattered dresses and slept each night in a big armchair beside her six siblings in a two-room prairie house in Muskogee, Oklahoma. By the early 1920s, many newspapers covered the court battles involving white men seeking to become Rector’s guardian to gain control over her estate.
She was one of a group of Creek freedman children who were given land allotments by the U.S. government as part of the Treaty of 1866.
Sarah Rector was born in 1902, near Taft in Indian Territory, the northeastern part of present-day Oklahoma. Though she was “colored,” she was not an African-American child and had no concept of what it meant to be an American citizen. Rector was a descendant of slaves who had been owned by Creek Indians before the Civil War. Read more.
by Linda Milazzo
Monday night, in remembrance of the one-year anniversary of Israel's Operation Cast Lead that killed 1,400 Gazans, and in solidarity with the 1,400 international peace pilgrims converging in Egypt from 42 countries for the planned Gaza Freedom March, Los Angelenos gathered in front of the Israeli Consulate for a solemn candlelight vigil.
Photo by Mike Chickey
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The company that makes the electronic voting machines used in many states, including West Virginia, will be the focus of congressional hearings next month.
Fourteen states and the U.S. Department of Justice have opened investigations into whether Election Systems & Software owns too much of the voting machine market nationally.
On Sept. 1, Omaha, Neb.-based ES&S bought Diebold Inc.'s voting machine business, giving ES&S 70 percent of the national market.
States with their own investigations into the growing ES&S monopoly are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and Washington. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., plans to hold the congressional hearings.
"What will happen tomorrow and over the next few years to the cost of maintaining and improving the machines, especially when the company has almost a total monopoly?" asked Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper, a longtime critic of ES&S.
ES&S officials did not return telephone messages last week.
During the 2008 elections, ES&S voting machines generated controversies in several West Virginia counties, including Kanawha County. Read more.
Have Americans Traded Freedom For Security?
According to polls, Americans support torture and don't mind that their government spies on them without obtaining warrants from a court.
By Paul Craig Roberts | CounterPunch
Obama's dwindling band of true believers has taken heart that their man has finally delivered on one of his many promises -- the closing of the Guantanamo prison. But the prison is not being closed. It is being moved to Illinois, if the Republicans permit.
In truth, Obama has handed his supporters another defeat. Closing Guantanamo meant ceasing to hold people in violation of our legal principles of habeas corpus and due process and ceasing to torture them in violation of U.S. and international laws.
All Obama would be doing would be moving 100 people, against whom the U.S. government is unable to bring a case, from the prison in Guantanamo to a prison in Thomson, Illinois.
Are the residents of Thomson despondent that the US government has chosen their town as the site on which to continue its blatant violation of U.S. legal principles? No, the residents are happy. It means jobs.
The hapless prisoners had a better chance of obtaining release from Guantanamo. Now the prisoners are up against two U.S. senators, a U.S. representative, a mayor, and a state governor who have a vested interest in the prisoners' permanent detention in order to protect the new prison jobs in the hamlet devastated by unemployment. Read more.
By Medea Benjamim
One year ago, the brutal Israeli 22-day invasion of the Gaza Strip shocked the world, leaving some 1,400 people dead, thousands more wounded, as well as hospitals, schools, prisons, UN facilities, factories, agricultural processing plants and some 20,000 homes damaged or destroyed.
As we mark the one-year anniversary of the invasion, the plight of the people of Gaza continues unabated:
- Despite pledges of money for reconstruction, Israel refuses to allow in the machinery necessary to clear the rubble or the materials needed to rebuild--banning cement, gravel, wood, pipes, glass, steel bars, aluminum and tar. Many who were made homeless during the bombing are still living in tents amidst the onset of another cold winter. Desperate, some are reverting to the ancient techniques of building homes made of mud.
In the end, a jury had no choice but to convict.
The Rev. Carl Kabat, 76, was photographed at the N-8 missile silo in northeast Weld County. Two-foot bolt cutters were found on the ground. There was a hole in the fence surrounding the facility, and he was waiting inside for his eventual arrest.
Kabat had breached nuclear missile facilities like these for the past two decades, and had 17 convictions behind him in his quest to do his small part to rid the earth of nuclear weapons, which the Catholic Church has deemed a crime against humanity.
But the members of the jury had to look beyond the message. After one hour of deliberations, they convicted him of the two misdemeanor criminal mischief and trespassing charges.
“We understand what he was standing for,” said jury member Ben Salgado, 56, of Windsor, after the verdict. “We just wish he would have chosen a different forum.”
As the jury was dismissed, Kabat applauded them, some walking out with tears in their eyes. One said as she left the courthouse: “It was very emotional.”
The St. Louis priest was immediately sentenced to the time he'd already served behind bars — 137 days — though deputy district attorney David Skarka asked for the maximum of one year for each of the misdemeanors to be served back to back. The county already had shelled out roughly $7,950 to keep him in jail for almost five months, based on a cost of about $58 per day per inmate. Had he been sentenced to Skarka's request, the county would have paid $26,000 more to keep him for a remaining 456 days. Read more.
by Jodie Evans
The Egyptian government announced Monday that the border between Gaza and Egypt will be closed, just in time for 1,346 men, women, and children from 42 countries -- the Gaza Freedom March -- to arrive in Cairo. It's too late to turn back now. We will proceed, and are asking Egypt to permit the march to go on.
This has happened with each delegation we have taken but with the right pressure we have succeeded in crossing the border each time. Our first attempt was made possible thanks to First Lady Suzanne Mubarak. For International Women's Day we were taking in thousands of pink baskets of aid for the women in Gaza. As we made our way to the border we passed truck after truck brimming with rotting material aid that the Egyptians had not allowed into Gaza. But our outreach to Madame Mubarak proved fruitful: we were met by the Egyptian Red Crescent (which she chairs) and we proceeded into Gaza with no problems.
The "Omaha Two:" Victimized by COINTELPRO Injustice
By Stephen Lendman
After a two week April 1971 trial and four days of deliberation, an 11 white/one black member jury convicted Mondo we Langa (formerly David Rice) and Edward Poindexter for the bombing murder of police officer Larry Minard on August 17, 1970. Both men denied involvement, and ever since consistently maintained their innocence, insisting they were framed. Supporters agree, including Amnesty International that declared them political prisoners, and no wonder.
They were Omaha chapter National Committee to Combat Fascism (NCCF) leaders, an off-shoot of the Black Panther Party, targeted (as later revealed) by secret FBI/police Domino task force/COINTELPRO tactics, following J. Edgar Hoover's orders to infiltrate, disrupt, sabotage, and destroy their activism for ethnic justice, racial emancipation, and real economic, social, and political equality across gender and color lines.
COINTELPRO is the acronym for the FBI's secretive/mostly illegal counterintelligence program to neutralize political dissidents, including communists; anti-war, human and civil rights activists; the American Indian Movement; and Black Panther Party among others.
In their book "Agents of Repression," Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall wrote:
"the term came to signify the whole context of clandestine (typically illegal) political repression activities (including) a massive surveillance (program via) wiretaps, surreptitious entries and burglaries, electronic devices, live 'tails' and....bogus mail" to induce paranoia and "foster 'splits' within or between organizations."
Other tactics included:
- "black propaganda" through leaflets or other publications "designed to discredit organizations and foster internal tensions;"
- "disinformation or 'gray propaganda' " for the same purpose;
- "bad-jacketing" to "creat(e) suspicion - through the spread of rumors, manufacture of evidence, etc. - that bona fide organizational members, (usually leaders were) FBI/police informants," to turn some against others violently;
- "assassinations (of) selected political leaders," including Fred Hampton and Mark Clark on December 4, 1969 by Chicago police while they slept; and
- "harassment arrests (on bogus) charges."
Individuals and organizations were targeted for their activism, not crimes that were blamed on innocent victims like the "Omaha Two."
In November 1968, a J. Edgar Hoover memorandum ordered his agents "to exploit all avenues of creating....dissension within the ranks of the BPP (using) imaginative hard-hitting counterintelligence measures aimed at crippling the BPP." From 1968 - 1971, they were vicious, including against Mondo we Langa and Edward Poindexter, targeted by the Bureau to be neutralized.
Months before they were arrested, FBI agents and Omaha police harassed them with tactics like frequent traffic stops, verbal abuse, and more. We Langa was called before a grand jury, and the Greater Omaha Community Action Agency fired him. Poindexter was victimized by bogus newspaper letters and an anonymous phone campaign. For the two men, it was just the beginning of a long nightmare, ongoing after 40 years.
Background on the "Omaha Two"
As part of a continuing series of discussions, I had a great conversation with Cindy Sheehan about getting arrested -- the joy, nobility and logistics.
Getting arrested as a protester engaging in civil disobedience is often described by those who have been through the experience as a joyful experience. I've been interviewing protesters to get their perspective and to learn their attitudes and strategies for engaging in the process. Tonight, I'll be talking to Cindy Sheehan.
Last week I spoke to Daniel Ellsberg, partly about getting arrested as a noble, honorable, joyful experience. I'll be talking with Cindy about it tonight. Looks like I'm going to write a book about it. And yes, that does mean I WILL be getting arrested. I'm starting to look forward to it. First, I'll be getting great advice from experts-- that I'll share in the book. You see, I believe we face times when the congress is out of control, unresponsive, non-accountable and protest-- civil disobedience-- could be the only way to change that situation. To help make it happen in a big way, we need a much bigger conversation about civil disobedience, about getting arrested, why it is a noble, honorable thing, a heroic, and perhaps necessary thing we need to do for our children, our future, for humanity. Because we are at war with corporations and the wealthy and as far as they're concerned, they've already won.
Here's the link to the interview. It will be available until Jan. 22.
Recording Download Link
Part II concludes an account of Obama's betrayal, not promised change.
Obamacare Plans to Ration Healthcare and Enrich Big Providers
After House passage in November, the Senate is now about to pass a stealth scheme to ration care and enrich insurers, the drug cartel, and large hospital chains, the way Washington always works.
It plans market-based solutions, featuring cost-containing measures, mostly affecting working Americans, the poor, elderly, and chronically ill to make a dysfunctional system worse, under the guise of reform, the most dangerous and deceptive word in the language to take cover from when announced.
Besides enriching providers, Obamacare will force millions to pay more, get less, with millions still uninsured and left out. Employers will be able to opt out of providing coverage, but since insurance for most will be mandated, those without it will have to buy it or face hundreds of dollars in penalties, whether or not they can afford it. Even with a public option, looking less likely, insurers will get to skim off the cream, charge what they wish, profit handsomely at low risk, and leave Washington stuck with ones industry doesn't want. For providers, it's a win-win under any version being considered.
Most disturbing are planned Medicare cuts, around $400 - $570 billion, depending on which numbers are most accurate, and these are for starters, a foot in the door if enacted, toward the long-term aim ending Medicare, then Medicaid and Social Security because, at $106 trillion in unfunded liabilities, budget constraints can't sustain them.
The Congressional Budget Office's June 2009 "Long-Term Budget Outlook" suggests a nation in decline, eventual hyperinflation, possible bankruptcy because of a greater national debt than during the Great Depression and near-surpassing WW II. The administration's solution - end entitlements over 100 million Americans rely on, but it still may be too little, too late given an overstretched budget, a weakening dollar, and foreign investors looking for safer returns on their capital, so are less willing to fund Washington's excesses.
In Obama's America, the least advantaged will carry the load, not privileged elites, but don't expect congressional opposition to stop him or news reports to explain it.
Obama's Permanent War Agenda
Democratic Senator: GOP on Desperate Mission of Propaganda, Obstruction and Fear
By Sheldon Whitehouse | AlterNet
In his Senate floor speech on the health-care bill, the Rhode Island senator accused the GOP of fomenting the kind of paranoia that led to Kristallnacht and lynchings.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This floor speech was delivered by the junior senator from Rhode Island yesterday, as the Senate remained in session to debate the health-care bill before a procedural vote that will bring the bill to the Senate floor later this week. References to "Madam President" or "Mr. President" refer to the senator who is presiding over the body at the time of the senator's comments. When Whitehouse began speaking, Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., was presiding; when he finished up, it was one of the male senators wielding the gavel. Transcription and links added by AlterNet.
Madam President, as we are here in the Senate today, Washington rests under a blanket of snow, reminding us here of the Christmas spirit across the nation -- the spirit that is bringing families happily together for the holidays. Unfortunately, a different spirit has descended on this Senate. The spirit that has descended on the Senate is one described by Chief Justice John Marshall back in the Burr trial: "those malignant and vindictive passions which rage in the bosoms of contending parties struggling for power."
Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Richard Hofstadter captured some examples in his famous essay, "The Paranoid Style in American Politics."
The "malignant and vindictive passions" often arise, he points out, when an aggrieved minority believes that "America has been largely taken away from them and their kind. Though they are determined to try to repossess it and to prevent the final destructive act of subversion." Does that sound familiar, Madam President, in this health-care debate? Forty years ago he wrote that.
Hofstader continued, those aggrieved fear what he described as "the now-familiar sustained conspiracy" -- familiar then, 40 years ago; persistent now -- "whose supposed purpose," Hofstadter described, "is to undermine free capitalism, to bring the economy under the direction of the federal government, and to pave the way for socialism." Again, familiar words here today.
More than 50 years ago, he wrote of the dangers of an aggrieved right-wing minority with the power to create what he called "a political climate in which the rational pursuit of our well-being and safety would become impossible."
A political environment "in which the rational pursuit of our well-being and safety would become impossible."
The malignant and vindictive passions that have descended on the Senate are busily creating just such a political climate. Far from appealing to the better angels of our nature, too many colleagues are embarked on a desperate, no-holds-barred mission of propaganda, falsehood, obstruction and fear.
History cautions us of the excesses to which these malignant, vindictive passions can ultimately lead. Tumbrels have rolled through taunting crowds. Broken glass has sparkled in darkened streets. Strange fruit has hung from Southern trees. Even this great institution of government that we share has cowered before a tail-gunner waving secret lists. Those malignant movements rightly earned what Lord Acton called "the undying penalty which history has the power to inflict upon wrong." Read more, watch the video.
BlackBoxVoting's Bev Harris Walks Us Through the DOJ Anti-Trust Probe of ES&S
By Joan Brunwasser | Op Ed News
Joan Brunwasser reports: I'm happy to have with me Bev Harris, intrepid investigative journalist and founder of the non-profit elections watchdog group, BlackBoxVoting.org. Welcome to OpEdNews, Bev. Interesting developments in the election world these days. Would you care to walk us through the latest regarding the ES&S acquisition of its competitor Diebold (now known as Premier)?
Oh yes. Big things are happening here. The US. Dept. of Justice (USDOJ) has just announced that it has opened an antitrust investigation into the ES&S/Diebold deal.
In September, megamonster voting machine company Election Systems & Software (ES&S) acquired Diebold's Premier Election Solutions. BlackBoxVoting.org prepared a formal complaint to elicit action by the US Department of Justice.
The USDOJ needed specific information in order to ascertain that the acquisition would "overconcentrate" the elections industry. They use a formula called the Herfindahl Index for this. Unfortunately, the only thing the USDOJ can use is precise figures based on official sources, and there are over 5,000 jurisdictions. Getting the data is no picnic, and you can't just use something published on someone's Web site. So Black Box Voting compiled data from our many Freedom of Information documents and produced a sourced, detailed chart proving overconcentration of the industry. Read more.
Voting-machine firm merger investigated
Florida's attorney general is investigating a voting-machine company merger that has voting-rights groups worried that the move will concentrate too much power over democracy in one private company.
By Marc Caputo | Miami Herald
TALLAHASSEE -- Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum is conducting an anti-trust investigation of a voting-machine company merger that would create a near-monopoly over the levers of democracy in Florida and much of the United States.
McCollum's office has issued at least six subpoenas covering every major voting-machine company as part of a civil investigation of Election Systems & Software's $5 million acquisition of Diebold Inc.'s elections division -- a merger that would give a private company too much power over the machines used to castvotes, voting-rights groups say.
``Our office engaged in this issue because anti-competitive behavior can seriously harm consumers,'' McCollum said in a written statement. ``Competitive behavior encourages the best products be available to consumers, including technology, particularly in a market as sensitive as the voting systems market.''
Under the state's 1980 anti-trust law, McCollum could persuade a court to levy fines against ES&S or prevent the company from operating in Florida. By next year, the company is expected to be the exclusive provider of voting machines and services in 65 of the 67 counties in Florida, the nation's most important swing state.
That means, under the acquisition announced Sept. 2, ES&S will provide election services to 92 percent of Florida's 11.2 million voters. Read more.
Obama Year One: Betrayal and Failure (Part I)
By Stephen Lendman | Blog
Promising change after eight George Bush and Republican dominated years, Barack Obama won the most sweeping non-incumbent victory in over 50 years along with congressional Democrats gaining large House and Senate majorities. In addition, at 56.8%, voter turnout was the highest since Richard Nixon's "secret plan" to end the Vietnam war and his "Southern" and "law and order" strategies beat Hubert Humphrey and independent George Wallace in 1968.
On election night, the mood celebrated hope for progressive change, an end to imperial wars, and a new day for America. When word came around 10PM, expectant thousands in Chicago's Grant Park erupted with chants of "yes we can," hoping Obama would make a difference at a time of deepening economic duress.
In its November 4, 2008 editorial titled, "The Next President," The New York Times called it "one of those moments in history when it is worth pausing to reflect on the basic facts," then listed some:
- for the first time, Americans elected a black president;
- his triumph was "decisive and sweeping, because he saw what is wrong with this country, (and will change direction) to regulate the economy fairly, keep the air clean and the food safe, ensure that the sick have access to health care, and educate children to compete in a globalized world;"
- he "committed to ending a bloody and pointless (Afghan) war (and) restore Americans' civil liberties and (the nation's) reputation around the world;"
- he must now "prevent an economic collapse fed by greed and an orgy of speculation (by) impos(ing) control, coherence, transparency and fairness," in contrast to George Bush; and
- he "now needs the support of all Americans (to help him deal with the) many other urgent problems that must be addressed."
Endorsing his candidacy early on for a socially liberal new beginning, Nation magazine editor, Katrina vanden Heuvel, looked for a "transformational presidency, (a) new era of possibility, a historic opportunity for a progressive governing agenda and a mandate for bold action....Tonight we celebrate," she said.
Campaigning, he offered change, a new course, sweeping government reforms, addressing people needs, and "ensur(ing) that the hopes and concerns of average Americans speak louder in Washington than the hallway whispers of high-priced lobbyists," the same ones he said wouldn't run his administration, but would "have a seat at the table," and why not given their large contributions to him and other Democrats.
Little wonder that a year later hope is now disillusion, frustration, and anger over promises made, then broken with an awakening knowledge that change won't come unless growing millions demand it.
A Man of the People or Machine Politics
The ACLU of Northern California wrote me to share this great news:
Dear Mr. Caruso,
The decade is ending with more hope than it began.
The Obama administration has begun to restore some of the fundamental rights this country was founded upon — rights that have been dismantled for too long. Rights that you care so much about.
Yay! I care so much about these rights, and the Obama administration is restoring them! Thank you the Obama administration, for giving us more hope than when it began! And Anthony D. Romero of the national ACLU wrote me another letter with even more good news:
Dear Mr. Caruso,
As 2009 comes to a close, two things have become clear to those of us who work to protect and advance freedom's cause.
The first is that our hopes for progress on civil liberties are brighter than they have been in nearly a decade. The second is that powerful forces are aligning to block the forward momentum that America so urgently needs.
Oh no! Powerful forces aligning to block the forward momentum that America so urgently needs? Who can they be? Spin me a scenario that illustrates their blackhearted no-goodness, Anthony D. Romero! Read more.
Always Controversial Cornel West Disses Obama, Survives Cancer and Almost Spent His Life in Prison
By Terrence McNally | AlterNet | Submitted by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com
I draw a radical distinction between the symbolic and the substantial. As a critical supporter of Barack Obama, engaged in over 50 events for him from Iowa to Ohio, I knew that at a symbolic level something could happen that was unprecedented. And it did happen. At that symbolic level, I can understand the tears, I can understand the jubilation, I can understand the euphoria. But I always knew there was a sense in which he, now heading the American empire, was tied to the shadow government, tied to CIA, FBI, tied to the establishment waiting to embrace him. It was clear when he chose his economic team, when he chose his foreign policy team, he was choosing, of course, the recycled neo-liberals and recycled neo-Clintonites that substantially you're going to end up with these technocratic policies that consider poor people and working people as afterthoughts. Beginning with bankers, beginning with elites.
Symbolically, black man breaks through makes you want to break dance. So, yes, we have to be able to relate to both of these. So I resonate with your dear fiancee, because the hopes that were generated and the call for change, and then we end up with this recycled neo-liberalism. There's no fundamental change at all.
That's very real, but I think we do have to understand we had to bring the age of Reagan to a close. We had to bring the era of conservatism to a close. And then you try to unleash new possibilities. Of course, the question now is, how do we keep our fellow citizens awakened so it goes beyond the campaign for a candidate and really begin engaging in grassroots organizing and mobilizing.
I think even my dear brother Michael Moore tends to put too much confidence in Barack Obama. In his film you get the sense that here comes Barack Obama speaking the language of deep democracy. No, no, no, he's been a liberal all his life. He uses that language to mobilize, but in the end he's going to capitulate and defer to the neo-liberal establishment, which is what he has done so far. Now granted, there's still some possibilities there, even when you talk about just extending unemployment benefits. This is nothing revolutionary at all, but it does alleviate some of the suffering. But if we don't get some restructuring going on, if we don't get some Marshall Plan activity of massive investments in infrastructure here, in this country....You've got four billion dollars every month in Afghanistan. You can come up with that all the time.
[Editor's Note: The following is a transcript of a recent interview with Cornel West by radio host Terrence McNally on KPFK's Free Forum program.]
"The capacity to produce social chaos is the last resort of desperate people. You can't lead the people if you don't love the people. You can't save the people, if you don't serve the people."
There's music in those words as well as pain, wisdom and honesty. Those are the words of Cornel West, who has just written a memoir, "Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud." In it, he writes, "Until now, I've never taken the time to focus on the inner dynamics of my soul."
Educator and philosopher Dr. Cornel West is the Class of 1943 University Professor of Religion and African American Studies at Princeton University. Read more.
Waging Peace: Mass Arrests at White House Antiwar Rally
by William Hughes
Washington, D.C. - On Monday, Oct. 5, 2009, just after noon and under a warm sun, 61 activists were arrested at the White House for failing to obey a police order to move off the sidewalk. The nonviolent “Civil Resistance” protest was the largest such antiwar demonstration at this particular site since President Barack Obama took office, in January, 2009.
Hundreds more activists participated in the spirited event, but chose not to get arrested. Some of those detained by the police wore orange jump suits and black hoods. A few had even chained themselves to the White House fence on the North Lawn. Included in that gutsy group was “Peace Mom,” Ms. Cindy Sheehan. She has been one of the most visible and passionate opponents of the Iraq War. Her son, Casey, age 24, a U.S. Army Spc., was killed in Baghdad on April 4, 2004. He had been assigned to the 1st Calvary Division. Ms. Sheehan has indicated that she will soon move from her home state of California to Washington, D.C., to spend more of her time creating a strong grass roots movement that will bring about real change in the U.S.
According to the press release of the sponsoring groups, the demonstration was carried out in order “to focus attention” on ending the U.S. war in Afghanistan and the U.S. occupation of Iraq; stopping the U.S. drone bombings in Pakistan; and to demand the closing, as a moral and legal issue, the Guantanamo Bay and Bagram prisons. The activists also want the culpable members of the Bush-Cheney Gang brought to the Bar of Justice for their role in sanctioning and carrying out the illegal policy of torture.
Prior to the mass arrests, this reporter talked with various pro-Peace activists at the scene who shared their views on the need to continue opposing the current wars even though there is a new, and Democratic, administration in town. Sarah Sloan, National Staff Coordinator, of the Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER) Coalition, said, “The Pentagon and the Obama administration are talking not about bringing the troops home, but about escalating the wars...We’re here to say ‘no’ to that; ‘no’ more troops--and to bring all the troops home, immediately.”
Documents Suggest Bush White House Failed to Search for Libby's "Missing" Emails Subpoenaed in CIA Leak Probe
Between late 2005 and January 2006, the Bush administration tried to recover "lost" emails from staffers who worked in the Office of the Vice President (OVP), an effort centered on a critical week - October 1 through October 6, 2003. That same week the Justice Department announced it was investigating the leak that Valerie Plame Wilson was a covert CIA operative.
But one name was missing from the list of 70 individuals whose email accounts White House technicians searched in an attempt to recover and restore missing emails: I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
According to documents obtained by government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), it appears that technicians in the Office of Administration did not attempt to recover from Libby's account emails he either sent or received during the week of October 1 to October 6, 2003. That was a week when emails from the Office of the Vice President were missing for entire days in some instances and were unusually low in others.
It was also during this time that Alberto Gonzales, then White House counsel, enjoined all White House staff members to turn over emails or other documents pertaining to Plame and her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who had angered the White House by criticizing Bush's case for invading Iraq. The directive came 12 hours after senior Bush White House officials had been told of the pending Justice Department investigation. Read more.
An Open Letter to Pacifica Radio's KPFA Management
By Stephen Lendman | Blog
Subject: A "truth emergency" over censorship at Pacifica's flagship station
By implementing early December budget and staff cuts, KPFA's management targeted its award-winning Flashpoints Radio for extinction, sullied the name of its founder, Lew Hill, and defiled fundamental First Amendment freedoms without which no others are possible.
On April 15, 1949, Hill went on the air saying: "This is KPFA, listener-sponsored radio in Berkeley" and launched America's first independent, listener-supported, "people's radio" as a sanctuary for free speech, dissent, alternative voices, social justice, and human dignity unlike anything previously heard.
Unless reversed, management's decision will deprive listeners in 30 US cities, and online globally, of some of the most vital and respected programming anywhere - thanks to the heroic work of Dennis Bernstein, Nora Barrows-Friedman, and the entire Flashpoints team, dedicated to providing accurate, in-depth coverage of the most-cutting edge issues with an array of distinguished guests.
Bernstein calls cutting 30% of its annual budget "a political battle. Management has pumped up (their internal supporters') budgets, and at the same time tried to kill Flashpoints through intimidation and attrition, and outright disrespect. (Now management) is about to deal the show a final blow," one as well to Pacifica's founding purpose and stated mission to:
- "to gather and disseminate information on the causes of conflict between any and all....nations, races, creeds and colors;"
- "promote the study of political and economic problems and of the causes of religious, philosophical and racial antagonisms;" and
- distribute public information fully, accurately, objectively, and comprehensibly "on all matters vitally affecting the community."
President Obama has lost his 2012 bid for re-election.
He has made key decisions in three areas that, unless he alters his
approach (not likely), could well guarantee a Republican victory: an embarrassingly
rolled-out, badly-compromised health-care reform bill; his continuing
slavish subservience to those on Wall Street that took the country into the
economic toilet; and his sad imitation of CheneyBush's imperial campaign in
(Obama's only hope for 2012 may depend on Sarah Palin getting the GOP
nomination. Even better if Glenn Beck or Dick Cheney is her running mate --
tickets, I'm appalled to say, that have been mentioned seriously. The Democrats
can only hope to face such Republican candidates.)
If Obama goes down to defeat in 2012, he could take with him any hope for a
major revitalization of American democracy after eight years of wrack and
ruin under CheneyBush. And Obama's own Democratic majority in Congress might
well suffer, perhaps quite badly, at the polls in November of 2010.
Yes, yes, I know that Obama's only been in office for a month shy of one
year, and dumping on the guy may seem way early, especially given the
humongous mess he inherited from his disastrous predecessor, and the vicious,
destructively partisan warfare being waged by the Congressional Republicans.
Still, as we approach the New Year, some summarizing truths need to be spoken
now, and loudly, if we are to gain anything from the current situation in the
way of possible alterations of course that can still be made.
By David Rovics
The signs up all over the airport and various places elsewhere in town are calling it Hopenhagen, but everybody I know is calling it Cop-enhagen, which seems far more appropriate. The international media has been giving this lots of coverage, and rightly so. Of course much of the media is unable to walk and chew gum at the same time, so other things, such as the reason the protests are happening in the first place, can get lost.
On December 11, 2009, a federal judge ruled that Congress had unconstitutionally cut off all federal funds to ACORN. The judge issued an injunction stopping federal authorities from continuing to cut off past, present and future federal funds to the community organization.
ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) and its allies in 75 cities will again have access to millions of federal dollars to counsel people facing foreclosure, seeking IRS tax refunds, and looking for affordable low cost housing. ACORN, which has received about $54 million in government grants since 1994, will be able to apply for new federal programs just like any other organization.
The court ruled that Congress violated the U.S. Constitution by singling out ACORN and its affiliates for severe sweeping restrictions and that such action constitutes illegal punishment or a bill of attainder.
What is a bill of attainder? Even most lawyers have no idea. Bills of attainder are acts of Congress which unilaterally punish an individual or organization. Essentially Congress acts as prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner. Read more.
Two months ago, we launched www.StopTheChamber.com to expose the U.S. Chamber’s deception, astroturfing, lobbying excesses and election manipulation. We called for the firing of Chamber CEO Tom Donohue, criminal and congressional investigations of Donohue and the Chamber, and companies to quit the Chamber in protest of its extremist policies. The Chamber has a budget over $100 million to defeat health care for all, environmental protection, and banking regulation.
We recently increased to $200,000 our reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue for engaging in criminal conduct. Fox News and Rush Limbaugh picked up on that story last week. And, guess what? We have been flooded with hundreds of profanity laced threats of violence! Characteristics of the treats we have received show clear signs of a coordinated attack. See VR co-founder Brad Friedman’s article at The BRAD BLOG about the wave of threats. The Chamber itself has attempted to intimidate us by saying that it is considering legal action against us and peddling defamatory information to the press.
And how did we respond? We filed a formal complaint with the FBI with copies of all the threats and asked that it conduct a swift investigation to hold those responsible accountable. Now, it is crucial that we continue to respond to this attempted intimidation by strengthening our efforts. Will you help us show the 'right' that its thuggish behavior will not be tolerated?
We want to place more ads and send more press releases exposing the corrupt practices of the Chamber and its CEO. In the past month, major companies such as Apple, PG&E, Mohawk Paper and Exelon have quit the Chamber because of their conduct, and even the White House condemned their extremist positions. Please help us with a donation.
Join our campaign by signing on here. Join thousands of others who have let the Chamber and its board members know that its conduct will no longer be tolerated. From the site you can also send a letter to your Congress members asking them to launch an investigation of the Chamber.
Please send this alert to your friends asking them to sign on. We need everyone to speak up in order to stop the Chamber’s pay-to-play lobbying. Let's get the Chamber out of our way as we work to clean up the environment, provide health care for all, and have honest and transparent elections.