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Americans Love a Good Killer

 

 

By John Grant

 

The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic and a killer.
- D.H. Lawrence

The realist in murder writes of a world in which gangsters can rule nations … where a judge with a cellar full of bootleg liquor can send a man to jail for having a pint in his pocket … where no man can walk down a dark street in safety because law and order are things we talk about but refrain from practicing.
- Raymond Chandler
 
 
American pop culture is certainly not unique in having a love affair with killers. Since the first cave man cracked his neighbor’s head open to control a water hole, eliminating others has been top on the list of problem-solving techniques.

The ‘Subsidized’ Loan Charade: The US Government is Profiteering on Struggling Students

By Dave Lindorff

The Senate is currently deadlocked on taking action to prevent the interest on new Stafford guaranteed student loans from rising on July 1 from 3.4% to 6.8%, with Democrats saying they want to “pay for” keeping the current “lower” 3.4% rate by closing a loophole that allows some wealthy people to avoid paying Social Security and Medicare taxes, while Republicans want to “pay for” keeping the lower rate by eliminating a fund for preventative health care in the 2010 health care reform law.


But what is all this nonsense about “paying for” a supposedly “lower” interest rate of 3.4%?

So then Who in the Hell Are We?

 

By Dan De Walt

 

“This is not a reflection of who we are or what we stand for.” 

       -- Jeff Gearhart, Wall-Mart general counsel, on the firm’s Mexico bribery 

 

[Torture] “is not the norm.” 

       -- Mike Pannek, Abu Ghraib prison warden.

 

“This is not who we are.” 

       -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the US massacre of 16 Afghan villagers.

 

“This is not who we are.” 

'Human Rights Won’t Get in the Way': The Selling Out of a Chinese Dissident

 

By Dave Lindorff

 

There are two truths about the US that come clearly to the fore in the current diplomatic blow-up between the US and China over the case of people’s lawyer Chen Guangcheng, though neither is really getting stated in the corporate media coverage of the story.

 

The first is that the US does not, and has not really ever, cared about the issue of human rights abuses in China, and the second is that the Obama administration, including the supposedly “tough” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, doesn’t know squat about how to negotiate -- not when it comes to dealing with Republicans in Congress, and certainly not when it comes to China.

 

Real Politics Must be in the Streets: The Constitutional Crimes of Barack Obama

 

By Dave Lindorff

 

As we slog towards another vapid, largely meaningless exercise in pretend democracy with the selection of a new president and Congress this November, it is time to make it clear that the current president, elected four years ago by so many people with such inflated expectations four years ago (myself included, as I had hoped, vainly it turned out, that those who elected him would then press him to act in progressive ways), is not only a betrayer of those hopes, but is a serial violator of his oath of office. He is, in truth, a war criminal easily the equal of his predecessor, George W. Bush, and perhaps even of Bush’s regent, former Vice President Dick Cheney.

 

Let me count the ways:

 

Occupy The Justice Department Challenges Obama Administration Integrity on Prosecutor Misconduct Issue

 

By Linn Washington, Jr.

 

One of the issues driving protesters participating in the April 24, 2012 Occupy The Justice Department demonstration is an issue that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder knows well: prosecutorial misconduct.

Holder knows this misconduct issue well because he has criticized it during congressional testimony, in fact as recently as March 2012 when he was commenting on a special prosecutor’s report castigating the wrongdoing of federal prosecutors.

That wrongdoing, Holder acknowledged, unlawfully tainted the corruption investigation and 2008 trial of the late U.S. Senator Ted Stevens, who was convicted of corruption in his home state of Alaska.

The unclassified Zelikow torture memo as evidence of crimes

By Michael Collins

"My colleagues were entitled to ignore my views," he [Zelikow] continued. "They did more than that: The [2006] White House attempted to collect and destroy all copies of my memo. I expect that one or two are still at least in the State Department's archives." Phillip D. Zelikow, State Department Counselor, 2005-2007, to Congress, May 13, 2009

Former legal counsel to the Department of State, Phillip Zelikow, produced a convincing and elegant argument for the immediate cessation of anything that looked like torture in February 2006. The government declassified the memo last week and National Security Archive released it on April 3.

The failure to follow Zelikow's clear statement of the law, withholding the memo without justification, and the failure to prosecute those responsible for the previous acts represent evidence of crimes.

Hi-Ho! The US is a Police State

 

By Dave Lindorff

 

Back in the early 1980s, I had the extraordinary good fortune to get to meet one of my literary heroes, Kurt Vonnegut, up close and personal.  We shared a police wagon, sitting next to each other for a ride to the station to be booked for blocking the door to the South African consulate in a demonstration against that country’s then policy of white rule and apartheid.

 

I can’t say I got to know the author very well, but he was quite friendly and interesting to talk to, and after our arrest and booking was over, and we were released, I shared a cab as far as his house.

 

The Trayvon Blues

By John Grant

 

Founded and preserved by acts of aggression, characterized by a continuing tradition of self-righteous violence against suspected subversion and by a vigorous sense of personal freedom, usually involving the widespread possession of firearms, the United States has evidenced a unique tolerance for homicide.

-David Brion Davis
Homicide in American Fiction 1798-1860

 


The Trayvon Martin story is not going to go away. It was a narrative event waiting to happen, and the story only gets richer with meaning as time goes on. There are the obvious racial aspects, but the most important elements are about police power versus citizen power -- and who can get away with shooting whom?

Extorting Alums: Colleges Withhold Transcripts from Grads in Loan Default

 

By Dave Lindorff

 

(This article originally appeared in The Nation online, where it can be read in full)

 

Books Banned in Arizona - Latinos Fighting Thought Control

By Michael Collins

Bad things are happening in Arizona … again. Good things too!

The extremist Arizona legislature enacted a law that just recently caused the banning of nearly 100 books from Tucson public schools. The list includes prominent Latino authors, plus Shakespeare, Thoreau, and James Baldwin. They even banned Zorro!

The real goal was to totally dismantle the Tucson school district's Mexican American Studies program. Mission accomplished. The program is gone. Not a class survived.

White Sheets Surround Florida Teen's Slaying

 

By Linn Washington, Jr.


In March 1799 authorities in North Carolina found no fault in a teen fatally shooting a black man after confronting that man about his being on a public road.

Pitfalls in Judges Judging Judges (Not)

 

By Linn Washington, Jr.


Richard Cebull, the chief federal district court judge in Montana, went into damage control mode recently after newspaper reporters in his state discovered a racist and sexist email Cebull had sent to six close friends insinuating that President Obama’s mother had had sex with a dog.

The Witch-Burners are Alive and Sick in Kansas: Stand Up for Dr. Kristin Neuhaus against the Kansas Theocracy's Anti-Abortion Ji

 

By Dave Lindorff

 

A few hundred years ago in colonial Massachusetts, the theocratic fascist men who ran that society had a way of dealing with free-thinking women in their midst: they burned them at the stake or drummed up hordes of frightened and unthinking neighbors to stone them to death.  

 

Most of us today imagine that if we had lived in those dark times, we would have stood up against such an outrage. Now is the time to find out.

 

'But That Would Be Torture!'

 

By Dave Lindorff

 

I just received an object lesson into how easily we Americans are able to compartmentalize our principles and our sense of basic human decency.

 

My father, David Lindorff Sr., who is 89 (and an occasional contributor to ThisCantBeHappening!), recently took a bad fall, hitting the back of his head on the bedpost and suffering a concussion that has temporarily left him with some periods of confusion. In the rehab facility where he was recovering, he would sometimes, when he was tired and half-asleep, get confused about his location, and would try to climb out of the hospital bed he was in, putting him at risk of another serious fall. 

 

Virginia is for Misogynists

By Michael Collins

The Virginia legislature is about to enact a law that requires a transvaginal ultrasound procedure for all women who have abortions (except in the case of a medical emergency). Apparently, the legislators are unaware that the law violates existing sexual assault code or that Virginians oppose the law  by a wide margin.

Here's the procedure.

"You will lie down on a table with your knees bent and feet in holders called stirrups. The health care provider will place a probe, called a transducer, into the vagina. The probe is covered with a condom and a gel. … The health care provider will move the probe within the area to see the pelvic organs." Medline Plus

This isn't an option. It's a requirement for an abortion in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The law is clear:

The US and Its Dark Passenger

 

By John Grant

 

I could have been a vicious raving monster who killed and killed and left towers of rotting flesh in my wake. Instead, here I was on the side of truth, justice and the American way. Still a monster, of course, but I cleaned up nicely afterward, and I was OUR monster, dressed in red, white and blue 100 percent synthetic virtue.
 
-Jeff Lindsay
Dearly Devoted Dexter

 


I teach creative writing in a maximum security prison in Philadelphia. During the week I scour two thrift shops for 35-cent paperbacks that I haul in to stock a small lending library I created for inmates. Amazingly, the prison had no library.

Burying Black History Month: Graffiti Defacing America's Vaunted Wall of Greatness?

 

By Linn Washington, Jr.

 

Ask journalists across America what is the seminal U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the First Amendment’s press freedom right and most with even a minimal knowledge of First Amendment history will quickly answer New York Times vs. Sullivan.

However, few journalists are aware that the Supreme Court decision significantly reinforcing their press freedom protections arose from the Civil Rights Movement, and in an action involving iconic activist Dr. Martin Luther King.

The 1964 New York Times vs. Sullivan decision is one of a number of U.S. Supreme Court rulings in the Twentieth Century where struggles by African-Americans to obtain long-denied constitutional rights succeeded in expanding constitutional protections for all Americans.

Mumia: The Picture!

 

By Dave Lindorff

 

Something very small and yet enormous happened this past week.

 

On Feb. 2, two women who have been fighting for the freedom of Mumia Abu-Jamal, filmmaker/professor Johanna Fernandez and National Lawyers Guild Heidi  Boghosian, executive director of the National Lawyers Guild, visited Abu-Jamal, as each has done in the past, but this time, because he has been moved off of death row, for the first time since 1995, he was able to greet them with a hug--free of leg shackles and handcuffs.

 

For the first time too, since 1995, there is a photo to record that seemingly mundane and ordinary event.

 

'People Power' Pries Abu-Jamal from Punitive Administrative Custody

 

By Linn Washington, Jr.

 

He’s out!

Credit ‘people power’ for getting internationally known inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal sprung from his apparently punitive, seven-week placement in ‘The Hole.’

For the first time since receiving a controversial death sentence in 1982 for killing a Philadelphia policeman, the widely acclaimed author-activist finds himself in general population, a prison housing status far less restrictive than the solitary confinement of death row.

Inmates in general population have full privileges to visitation, telephone and commissary, along with access to all prison programs and services, all things denied or severely limited to convicts on death row waiting to be killed by the state.

Correction: Rare Admission of Mistake in Mumia Case

 

By Linn Washington, Jr.

 

I made a mistake.

An article I wrote recently for TCBH about the Pennsylvania prison system’s latest punitive assault on now ex-death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal (unnecessarily continuing his solitary confinement) contained a factual misstatement.

Most journalists consider any inaccuracy an error, regardless of how small.

The Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists calls for admitting “mistakes” and correcting them promptly.

Please Call for the Closure of Guantanamo By Signing the White House Petition

 

It’s three years since President Obama promised to close Guantánamo.

Remind President Obama of his promise. Sign the petition on the White House’s “We the People” website urging him to honor his promise. 25,000 signatures are needed by February 6 to secure a response, so please sign up, and please spread the word.

What happened to President Obama’s bold promise?

Three years ago, on January 22, 2009, President Obama issued an executive order promising to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay within a year, but he did not move swiftly to implement his promise, and Congress then stepped in with onerous restrictions on the release of prisoners or their transfer to the US mainland for any reason, even to be tried or imprisoned.

Instead of being closed, Guantánamo still holds 171 men, even though 89 of these men were cleared for release more than two years ago by the interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force (PDF), which was established by the President after taking office.

US Media Iraq Reporting: See No Evil

 

By Dave Lindorff

 

The Iraq war may be over, at least for US troops, but the cover-up of the atrocities committed there by American forces goes on, even in retrospectives about the war. A prime example is reporting on the destroyed city of Fallujah, where some of the heaviest fighting of the war took place.

 

On March 31, 2004, four armed mercenaries working for the firm then known as Blackwater (now Xe), were captured in Fallujah, Iraq’s third largest city and a hotbed of insurgent strength located in Anbar Province about 40 miles west of Baghdad. Reportedly killed in their vehicle, which was then torched, their charred bodies were strung up on a bridge over the Euphrates River. 

 

N.C. Human Rights Group Report on Torture Flights

Human rights group calls on state to probe alleged 'torture flights'

19 January 2012 - A North Carolina human rights group is calling on state officials to investigate and stop alleged CIA missions originating in Johnston County that involve illegal torture.

North Carolina Stop Torture Now delivered a University of North Carolina School of Law report Wednesday to the governor, attorney general and others that claims the Central Intelligence Agency relies on Smithfield-based Aero Contractors Ltd. to provide planes and pilots to transport prisoners overseas from the Johnston County Airport for secret interrogation using torture techniques.

Sadism in the Cell: Thanks to a Vindictive Prison System, Abu-Jamal is Still in 'The Hole'

 

By Linn Washington, Jr.


Those intent on tormenting now ex-death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal have done it again, this time perhaps even exceeding their past efforts to painfully harass this man widely perceived as a political prisoner. 

The Republicans' Rancid and All-Too-American Dance With Racism

By Linn Washington, Jr.

 

As the racist rhetoric oozes from Republican presidential candidates, why are comments contained in Ron Paul newsletters from the 1980s and 1990s being widely considered more offensive than current bigoted banter uttered by Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum?

One answer to that question is a politics where partisan criticisms are directed at crippling certain candidates feared as rising stars.

Thus when Congressman Paul began percolating up in the Iowa Caucus polls late last year, news of his caustic comments in those decades-old newsletters became headline news coverage.

Haley Barbour and the Culture of Death

By Michael Collins

  "After issuing just eight pardons in his first seven years, Barbour pardoned 208 convicts, 41 of them murderers, sex offenders or child molesters, during his last 48 hours in office." Time Jan 13

It's a big day for murderers in Mississippi, sex offenders and child molesters too! Just before leaving office, Republican Governor Haley Barbour pardoned 208 convicts in a stunning act of candor and honesty in behalf of the party and system he has served so well. (Image)

Tired of the same old script featuring religious values and law and order year in and year out by politicians you just know are lying? Your search for honesty is over. Haley Barbour is the poster boy for the culture of death that pervades the political leadership.

Why would Barbour do such a thing? In his own words, he told us: "I have no question in my mind that these men have repented, have been redeemed, have come back hard working to prepare themselves to go out into the world…"  CNN Jan 13

Go out in the world and do what? Murder, maim, commit sexual assaults against children and adults?

Andy Worthington on Guantanamo

Andy Worthington, who is now in the U.S., traveling and speaking about the cases of the men held at the world's most notorious symbol of unjust imprisonment and torture, wrote several days ago:

Killer Cops Aren't Heroes: We Need Police Who Think Like Firefighters, Not Like Soldiers in a War Zone

By Dave Lindorff

 

The sad slaying of troubled eighth-grader Jaime Gonzalez in Brownsville by trigger-happy local police illustrates the sad an dangerous state we have arrived at as we turn our local police forces into SWAT team soldiers up-armed with assault rifles, black facemasks and stun grenades.

The reason Gonzalez, who had no hostages and was just armed with a pellet gun, was killed by police bullets was because the primary concern of the officers confronting him was to eliminate the threat to themselves, not to rescue a troubled kid.

Killing Kids is So American

 

By Dave Lindorff

 

According to news reports, 15-year-old  eighth-grader Jaime Gonzalez, who was shot and killed yesterday by police in his middle school in Brownsville, TX, was hit three times: twice in the chest and once “from the back of the head.” 

 

Police say they were called by school authorities because Gonzalez was carrying a gun, which turned out to be a realistic-looking pellet gun, a weapon that uses compressed air to fire a metal pellet which, while perhaps a threat to the eye, does not pose a serious threat to life.

 

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