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Criminal Prosecution and Accountability
By Dave Lindorff
(This article was originally written forWhoWhatWhy News)
By Linn Washington, Jr.
Federal authorities publicly plot encouraging bounty hunters to kidnap a fugitive black radical from a foreign country for return to prison in the U.S. to achieve long-delayed justice.
This sounds like the FBI action on May 2, 2013 in placing former Black Panther and Black Liberation Army member Assata Shakur on its “Most Wanted Terrorists” list – the first female to have that dubious distinction.
What We Know is Bad; What's Behind It is Worse! The AP Seizures and the Frightening Web They've Uncovered
By Alfredo Lopez
"Paranoia," said Woody Allen, "is knowing all the facts." By that measure, we're becoming more and more "paranoid" every day.
By John Grant
It was the summer of 1981. I was working on an ambulance in Philadelphia, transporting a cancer patient to a hospital for radiation treatments. The man was in his sixties, and I felt he knew his days were numbered.
In my conversations with the man, it came up that I was a Vietnam veteran. He told me he was in the CIA in Saigon in the early 1970s.
“What did you do?” I asked.
Most of the world's governments no longer use the death penalty. Among wealthy nations there is one exception remaining. The United States is among the top five killers in the world. Also in the top five: the recently "liberated" Iraq.
But most of the United States' 50 states no longer use the death penalty. There are 18 states that have abolished it, including 6 in this new millennium, including Maryland this week. Thirty-one states haven't used the death penalty in the past 5 years, 26 in the past 10 years, 17 in the past 40 years or more. A handful of Southern states -- with Texas in the lead -- do most of the killing.
The progress is slow and painful. Mississippi is right now having trouble deciding whether to spare a man just because he might be innocent. Maryland has perversely left five people waiting to be killed while banning the death penalty for any future cases. Next-door in Virginia we hold second place behind Texas and continue to kill.
Virginia electrocuted a man named Robert Gleason in January. Since then, Texas has killed four men, Ohio two, and Florida, Oklahoma, and Georgia one each -- all by lethal injection. Since 1973, there have been 141 exonerations from death row nationwide, including an innocent Virginian who came within days of being killed.
If you're convicted of killing a white person in Virginia, you're over three times as likely to receive the death penalty as you would be if the victim had been black. The injustice and backwardness is staggering, but so is the lack of democracy. Only a third of Virginians tell pollsters they favor the death penalty.
The evil of the death penalty is not limited to the instances in which it is used -- or to the corrosive influence it has on our culture. The death penalty primarily serves as a valuable chip in plea bargaining. Want someone to plead guilty, whether or not they actually are guilty? Threaten them with the death penalty. Who needs trials by jury (now used in under 2% of cases) when you have that kind of tool? And who has time for them when you've overloaded the system by treating drug use as a crime?
Remarkably, a former commonwealth's attorney here in Charlottesville, Va., named Steve Deaton is campaigning for his old job with a commitment to never use or threaten to use the death penalty.
"I believe the death penalty is barbaric and has no place in modern Charlottesville courts," Deaton says, reversing the electoral wisdom of many decades, which firmly holds that candidates must pretend to believe the death penalty is just and righteous and a deterrent to crime, even if the public thinks that's nonsense.
"I am calling for a moratorium on death penalty prosecutions," says Deaton. "During the past 20 years -- that is, the term of the incumbent Commonwealth's Attorney -- a number of capital murder charges have been brought against some people, almost all of them poor. Then the charge is often used as a bargaining chip to get the defendant to plead guilty to murder and accept a life sentence. This practice of using the threat of death to plea bargain is legal, and under current ethical standards, considered ethical. However, I find such a practice appalling. By engaging in this practice the prosecutor is tempting fate: what if their threat doesn't work and the case goes to a jury?"
Many in Charlottesville oppose the death penalty. Deaton explains the very real possibility that it will nonetheless be employed here: "The notion that no Charlottesville jury will return a death sentence is misleading. In a capital murder case the jury has to be 'death qualified,' meaning that the jurors must believe in the death penalty. Such a jury is not representative of the community! Studies have shown that a 'death qualified jury' is also much more likely to convict."
Deaton points out that prosecutors have a great deal of discretion: "A prosecutor does not have to bring a capital murder charge. They have the option of bringing a regular murder charge instead."
If elected, Deaton intends to use the enormous discretion given to prosecutors to try to make punishments more reasonably fit crimes, including so-called drug crimes. While Charlottesville City Council failed by a vote of 3-2 in February to end jail time for possession of marijuana, Deaton intends to charge those possessing marijuana with a different charge: disorderly conduct. It's technically a higher level charge -- a Class 1 misdemeanor -- but it does not carry the draconian punishments of loss of driver's license, subjection to drug testing, ruined college acceptance and student loan prospects, immigration status, etc. "If a person makes a mistake, they should be punished. They shouldn't have their lives ruined," Deaton says.
Deaton aims to counter mass-incarceration, not add to it. "The state has built a new $100 million prison in Grayson County and there is talk of expanding our local jail," he says. "All of this in spite of declining crime rates. It is time to stop feeding the prison-industrial complex. I believe the goal of the justice system should be to empty out spaces in the jails and prisons -- not to fill every available space!"
Of course, the system of mass incarceration creates a caste system by stamping the scarlet F of "Felon" on those released, no matter how many years of their lives are wasted in cages. Deaton favors restoring rights, including voting rights, for people convicted of nonviolent felonies.
Charlottesville has a chance to give the death penalty in Virginia a big push toward the door, which would help the United States and the world along that path. As Charlottesville only elects Democrats (and packs the full range of great to awful candidates into that one party) the election for Deaton is effectively the June 11th primary. Anyone in Charlottesville can vote in that primary, without swearing any loyalty to any party. And anyone else can help to spread the word or donate to the campaign.
Interfaith Service of Lamentation and Hope
APRIL 22, 2013 ● 5:00 P.M. INTERFAITH PEACE CHAPEL
GATHERING MUSIC Jenny Holland, flute David Moldenhauer, piano
PRELUDE Dona Nobis Pacem
by Giulio Caccini, arr. James Moore
Stephanie Darbo, soprano
When truth has fallen in the public squares (Isaiah 59), falsehood becomes the memory norm of a people unless someone provides a truthful narrative befitting democracy at its best. Truth telling, our purpose today in the name of the God of Peace and Justice, calls for transparency and accountability from all parties, offering judgment, self-examination, and the hope of restoration.
We recognize that all of us as a nation bear responsibility for the fall of truth. It is the responsibility of each citizen of the United States to reflect on one’s own role in the decisions of presidential administrations and it behooves us to make whatever changes are necessary for the common good.
WELCOME Rev. Bill McElvaney INTRODUCTION TO LAMENTATIONS Rabbi Steve Fisch
We lament the misinformation used to justify the war against Iraq, a country with no weapons of mass destruction despite the assurance of the Bush administration to the contrary.
We lament the muting of dissent by the Bush presidency during the U.S. initiated war in Iraq, casting doubt on the patriotism of those opposing the war.
We lament President Bush’s wrongful assumption that U.S. invasion and occupation would make the U.S. more secure when in fact the consequence was increased recruitment of would-be terrorists.
We lament the claim by the Bush administration that our nation was protected from terrorist attacks when in fact the worst terrorist attack in history on U.S. soil occurred during the Bush presidency.
We lament resistance to acknowledge claims of the scientific community regarding climate change.
ALL: We call upon God to guide us towards truth telling in the public square.
By Dave Lindorff
My mother died last Thursday at the age of 89. Her death, fortunately coming peacefully after she suffered a stroke during her sleep, followed a long mental decline caused by Alzheimer’s disease.
By Dave Lindorff
Let’s do a little exercise. Forget nationalities and identities for a moment.
By Dave LIndorff
I have written a lengthy piece about all the bizarre aspects of the Tsarnaev brothers’ alleged bombing of the Boston Marathon, including questions about where the elder Tsarnaev brother, Tarmelan, who was delivering pizzas, and whose wife was slaving away at a low-paid home health aid job, got the money to buy his fancy clothes and Mercedes Benz, why the Marathon finish line area was crawling with black-jacketed mercenaries from the Craft International Security rent-a-soldier agency, and how the police and federal agencies and National Guard managed to lock down a city of a million in a few hours’ time without any advance planning.
Oakland, CA – On April 22, 2013, United States District Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton from the Northern District of California has ruled against the Obama Administration’s secrecy around the multi-million dollar, U.S. taxpayer-funded Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (SOA/WHINSEC) military training school, and has ordered that access to who trains and teaches at the school be restored. Human rights activists had taken the U.S. government to court over its refusal to release the information, and won.
Read the court ruling here: SOAW.org/judgment
SOA Watch compiled the names, course, rank, country of origin, and dates attended from 1946 to 2004 for every soldier and instructor at the School of the Americas, which was renamed to the Western Hemisphere Institute in 2001. After researchers exposed cases of known human rights abusers attending the WHINSEC (despite claims that the "new" school was committed to human rights), and shared this research with Congressional decision-makers, the Department of Defense (DOD) refused to disclose any future information about students or teachers at the WHINSEC.
In 2010 Secretary of Defense Robert Gates ignored the public's right to know and determined that it is “in the national interest” to deny human rights organizations and the public access to any more information.
The school made headlines in 1996 when the Pentagon released training manuals used at the school that advocated torture, extortion and execution. Hundreds of SOA alumni have been implicated in human rights abuses and the formation of death squads, 11 Latin American military dictators, including Manuel Noriega of Panama, Hugo Banzer of Bolivia, General Rios Montt of Guatemala, attended the school. SOA graduates led the 2002 coup in Venezuela, and the 2009 coup in Honduras, and continue to be involved in repression campaigns in Colombia, Honduras, and Mexico.
“The decision by the court is victory for transparency and human rights, and against government secrecy,” said SOA Watch founder Father Roy Bourgeois.
The release of the names is essential for Congress to make decisions about foreign military training. After the upholding of the value of transparency, and the public's right to know, over the Obama Administration’s secrecy, human rights organizations will use this ruling to further expose the negative impact of the SOA/ WHINSEC in Latin America.
SOA Watch is an independent organization that seeks to close the SOA/WHINSEC through vigils and fasts, demonstrations and nonviolent protest, as well as media and legislative work. This November 22-24, SOA Watch will hold its annual vigil at the gates of the SOA in Fort Benning, Georgia. SOA Watch is working on a campaign to call attention to the continued human rights abuses associated with the SOA/ WHINSEC and demand that the school will be shut down.
By Dave Lindorff
The Boston Marathon bombing has already demonstrated the best and the worst of America for all the world to see.
Two scenes of terror this week, only one terrorism investigation: The Real Terrorists are the Corporate Execs Who’ve Bought the
By Dave Lindorff
The way I see it, we had two acts of terrorism in the US this week. The first took place at the end of the historic Boston Marathon, when two bombs went off near the finish line, killing three and seriously injuring dozens of runners and spectators. The second happened a couple days later in the town of West, Texas, where a fertilizer plant blew up, incinerating or otherwise killing at least 15, and injuring at least 150 people, and probably more as the search for the dead and the injured continues.
Manning's Co-Defendant is the Internet Itself Bradley Manning Update: How to Commit Espionage Without Trying!
By Dave Lindorff
If it wasn't clear up to now, it was made crystal clear last week. The co-defendent in the Bradley Manning trial is the Internet itself.
Manhattan DA espies financial fraud and indicts...a tiny Chinatown bank: Indicting the Wrong Target in the US Financial Capital
By Dave Lindorff
Note from TCBH: Manhattan island hosts the headquarters of four of the nation's five biggest "too-big-to-fail" banks: Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, JP MorganChase, and Citi Group. US Attorney General Eric Holder has stated publicly in Congress that he has no intention of seeking criminal indictments of these banks or their top executives -- or even their middle-ranking executives for that matter -- despite the myriad frauds, scams and schemes they've all engaged in, like robo-signing mortgage documents and touting derivatives that they were privately calling "sh*t," all of which led to the crashing of the US and global economies.
NO CUTS! NO TAX INCREASES ON ORDINARY PEOPLE! Chase Down Mega-Rich Tax Cheats and Recover the Offshore Trillion$
By Dave Lindorff
I mean it. Stop talking about cutting school budgets, Social Security benefits, Medicare, Veteran’s pensions. Stop cutting subsidies to transit systems, to foreign aid. Stop cutting unemployment benefits. Stop it all.
Announcing: two screenings for The Last War Crime movie on Saturday, May 25th, 2013 at The Delancey Street Screening Room, 600 The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA. Please submit this form to reserve your tickets.
Note that a radio station has turned down advertising for this film and stated that it was doing so for political reasons. A law suit is progressing. Learn more and hear the unacceptable ad here.
By Dave Lindorff
Willie James Sauls is unlikely to see the outside of a prison. Last fall a court in the state of Texas sentenced this 37-year-old man to 45 years in jail. His crime: he snatched the purse from an old woman.
On April 25th the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum and General Rehabilitation Project will be dedicated in Dallas, Texas. It takes up 23 acres at Southern Methodist University, 23 acres that neither humanity nor any other species may ever reclaim for anything decent or good.
I'll be there, joining in the people's response (http://ThePeoplesResponse.org) with those who fear that this library will amount to a Lie Bury.
"The Bush Center's surrounding native Texas landscape," the center's PR office says, "including trees from the Bush family's Prairie Chapel Ranch in Crawford, Texas, continues President and Mrs. Bush's longstanding commitment to land and water conservation and energy efficiency."
Does it, now? Is that what you recall? Bush the environmentalist?
Well, maybe you and I remember things differently, but do we have a major educational institution that will effectively repeat our corrections of the Lie Bury's claims for decades to come?
According to the Lie Bury, Bush was and is an education leader, saving our schools by turning them into test-taking factories and getting unqualified military officers to run them. This is something to be proud of, we're told.
The Lie Bury's annual report shows Bush with the Dalai Lama. No blood is anywhere to be seen. The Lie Bury's website has a photo of a smiling George W. golfing for war. "The Warrior Open," it explains, "is a competitive 36-hole golf tournament that takes place over two days every fall in the Dallas area. The event honors U.S. service members wounded in the global war on terror."
Now, I actually know of some soldiers wounded in what they call by that name who don't feel honored by Bush's golfing, just as millions of Iraqis living as refugees within or outside of the nation he destroyed find Bush's liberty to walk outdoors, much less golf for the glory of war, offensive. But none of them has a quarter-billion dollar "center" from which to spread the gospel of history as it actually happened -- as it happened to its losers, to those water-boarded, shot in the face, or otherwise liberated by Bush and his subordinates.
When Bush lied about excuses to start a war on Iraq -- as with everything else he did -- he did so incompetently. As a result, a majority of Americans in the most recent polls, still say he lied to start the war. But few grasp the lesson as it should be applied to wars launched by more competent liars. And memory of Bush's lies is fading, buried under forgetfulness, avoidance, misdirection, revisionism, a mythical "surge" success, and a radically inaccurate understanding of what our government did to Iraq.
I won't be attending the Lie Bury ceremony for vengeance, but in hopes of ridding our culture of the vengeance promoted by Bush. He based a foreign policy and a domestic stripping away of rights on the thirst for vengeance -- even if misdirected vengeance. We have a responsibility to establish that we will not support that approach going forward.
Bush himself is relevant only as his treatment can deter future crimes and abuses. No one should wish Bush or any other human being ill. In fact, we should strive to understand him, as it will help us understand others who behave as he has.
Bush, of course, knew what he was doing when he tried to launch a war while pretending a war would be his last resort, suggesting harebrained schemes to get the war going to Tony Blair. Bush knew the basic facts. He knew he was killing a lot of people for no good reason. He was not so much factually clueless as morally clueless.
For Bush, as for many other people, killing human beings in wars exists outside the realm of morality. Morality is the area of abortions, gay marriage, shop lifting, fornicating, or discriminating. Remember when Bush said that a singer's suggestion that he didn't care about black people was the worst moment in his presidency? Racism may be understood by Bush as a question of morality. Mass murder not so much. Bush's mother remarked that war deaths were not worthy of troubling her beautiful mind. Asked why he'd lied about Iraqi weapons, George W. Bush asked what difference it made. Well, 1.4 million dead bodies, but who's counting?
I won't be attending the Lie Bury because Bush's successor is an improvement. On the contrary, our failure to hold Bush accountable has predictably led to his successor being significantly worse in matters of abusing presidential power. And not just predictably, but predicted. When we used to demand Bush's impeachment, people would accuse us of disliking him or his political party. No, we'd say, if he isn't held accountable, future presidents will be worse, and it won't matter from which party they come.
I helped draft about 70 articles of impeachment against Bush, from which Congressman Dennis Kucinich selected 35 and introduced them. I later looked through those 35 and found 27 that applied to President Barack Obama, even though his own innovations in abusive behavior weren't on the list. Bush's lying Congress into war (not that Congress wasn't eager to play along) is actually a standard to aspire to now. When Obama went to war in Libya, against the will of Congress, he avoided even bothering to involve the first branch of our government.
When Bush locked people up or tortured them to death, he kept it as secret as he could. Obama -- despite radically expanding secrecy powers and persecuting whistleblowers -- does most of his wrongdoing wide out in the open. Warrantless spying is openly acknowledged policy. Imprisonment without trial is "law." Torture is a policy choice, and the choice these days is to outsource it. Murder is, however, the new torture. The CIA calls it "cleaner." I picture Bush's recent paintings of himself washing off whatever filth his mind is aware he carries.
Obama runs through a list of men, women, and children to murder on Tuesdays, picks some, and has them murdered. We don't know this because of a whistleblower or a journalist. We know this because the White House wanted us to know it, and to know it before the election. Think about that. We moved from the pre-insanity state we were in circa 1999 to an age in which presidents want us to know they murder people. That was primarily the work of George W. Bush, and every single person who yawned, who looked away, who cheered, who was too busy, who said "it's more important to elect a new president than to keep presidential powers in check," or who said "impeachment would be traumatic" -- as if this isn't.
In Guatemala a prosecutor has charged a former dictator with genocide, remarking, "It's sending the most important message of the rule of law -- that nobody is above the law." It's not so many years ago that the United States had the decency at least to hypocritically propose that standard to the world. Now, we advance the standard of lawlessness, of "looking forward, not backward."
That's why the people need to respond to the lie bury. Ann Wright is going to be there. And Diane Wilson. Robert Jensen and Ray McGovern are coming. So are Lon Burnam and Bill McElvaney and Debra Sweet. Hadi Jawad and Leah Bolger and Marjorie Cohn and Kathy Kelly are coming. As are Coleen Rowley and Bill Moyer and Jacob David George and Medea Benjamin and Chas Jacquier and Drums Not Guns.
Also coming will be many familiar faces from the days when we used to protest in Crawford. When we'd go into that one restaurant at the intersection in Crawford, there'd be a cardboard cut-out Dubya standing there. We picked him up and stood him in the corner, facing the corner. We said he needed to stay there until he understood what he'd done wrong. In reality, of course, he was cardboard. The lesson was for everyone else in the restaurant. It's a lesson that still needs to be taught.
By Dan DeWalt
Corporate America just received the confirmation that they've been waiting for.
By Dave Lindorff
Thanks to the courageous action of Private Bradley Manning, the young soldier who has been held for over two years by the US military on trumped-up charges including espionage and aiding the enemy, we now have solid evidence that the country’s two leading news organizations, the Washington Post and the New York Times, are not interesting in serious reporting critical of the government.
By Linn Washington, Jr.
The controversial acquittal of a Philadelphia policeman caught on video violently punching a woman at a Puerto Rican Day parade last fall quickly produced a second stink bomb.
The Philadelphia judge who freed fired Lt. Jonathan Josey during a non-jury trial where that jurist brushed aside compelling evidence recorded on that video is married to a Philadelphia policeman.
By Dan DeWalt
‘If the President Does It, It Isn’t Illegal’
-- Richard M. Nixon
By Alfredo Lopez
In the madness of our media-fed consciousness, the greatest threat to an informative news story is time. Given enough time, and the dysfunctional and disinformative way the mainstream media cover news, even the most important and revealing story quickly dies out.
That is, unless we who use alternative media keep that story alive.
By Dave Lindorff
It was clear from the outset when fired LAPD cop Chris Dorner began his campaign of terror against his former employer that the California law enforcement establishment, led by the LAPD itself, had no interest in Dorner surviving to face trial where he could continue to rat out the racist and corrupt underbelly of the one of the country’s biggest police departments.
By Dave Lindorff
Let’s not be too quick to dismiss the “ranting” of renegade LAPD officer Chris Dorner.
Dorner, a three-year police veteran and former Lieutenant in the US Navy who went rogue after being fired by the LAPD, has accused Los Angeles Police of systematically using excessive force, of corruption, of being racist, and of firing him for raising those issues through official channels.
By John Grant
In The New York Times February 6th on pages 20 and 21, across from each other, there were two tragic stories centered around the themes of sex, race and power. You might call them love stories, though they were definitely not Hallmark card or Harlequin romances.