Mike Brown: Justice Denied



As we all know by now, Darren Wilson is not being charged for killing Mike Brown. Justified rage has resulted in protests in cities across the nation. Yet most white peoples single takeaway seems to be that of the looters. Because it is impossible to see the broader reasons behind their anger, when some protesters are just so darned angry. Now that all of the grand jury testimony is out, I want to go back and focus on the failed process that got us here.

There are plenty of interesting tidbits. From Wilson testifying that Brown looked like a demon. That it was Hulk Hogan against a five year old. That Brown was angered when shot (ya don’t say?). To saying that he wasn’t trying to pull Brown, but simply trying to grab him. People more bright than I are picking apart his testimony, so I’ll leave that up to them.

Those are pesky little things. We expect a guy who killed an unarmed teenager to justify his actions. To convince himself that he’s not the type of person that would kill an unarmed teenaged in cold blood. That he’s not a murderer. He’s a good guy! He’s paid to protect and serve. He was doing his job and following his training. And now he’s had to go through all of this. He’s lost his job. Paranoid every waking moment. His life is ruined!

I don’t particularly care about Darren Wilson, and how he gets himself to sleep at night. He and Mike Brown (may he rest in peace) are actors in a scene that plays out all too often in America. It is the actions of law enforcement, and of the prosecution, that are most alarming.

So again – after an altercation at Wilson’s SUV, Brown fled on foot. His body was found roughly 150ft from Wilson’s vehicle. Wilson killed Brown from a distance of 30-40ft, according to testimony. We don’t know exactly though, because no one bothered to measure the exact distances. Thus begins myriad ways in which this entire cluster was utterly fucked.

Homicide detectives weren’t notified until 40 minutes after the shooting (with no intervening audio of Wilson, oddly enough). It was an hour and a half before they arrived. No pictures were taken at the scene. The battery to the camera had died (no one had a camera phone, apparently). Wilson said that Brown grabbed his weapon in the vehicle. No fingerprints were taken to back up his claim. He was even allowed to take his weapon with him, as well as his vehicle, both of which had been splattered with Brown’s blood. Chain-of-custody be damned. He was allowed to wash Brown’s blood off of his hands, without pictures or samples taken. After initially stating that he did not require medical attention, Wilson was later convinced to go to the hospital. He rode with his superiors. Homicide detectives rode in a separate vehicle. Wilson was photoed at the hospital, treated with Aleve, and released.

That was just the day of. The prosecutor’s handling of the grand jury was even more suspect. To the point that the National Bar Associate has denounced the process.

St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCullough simply did not want Darren Wilson to be charged in the death of Mike Brown. That is the short version, plain and simple. But the way he went about it. Now that is the stuff of legend.

First of all, there should always be an independent prosecutor when dealing with police officers. They are often star witnesses for the prosecutor in cases brought daily against various vagrants in the community. They handle evidence and make arrests. They have a symbiotic relationship. Secondly, Bob McCullough’s father was a police officer who was killed in the line of duty.  Third, going in he was oh-for-four when attempting to get a grand jury to indict a police officer for killing a black man. Never done it. Four, McCullough has close legal ties to the police union.

This fucking guy. He put on this elaborate charade so he could let Wilson off, and point his damned finger at the grand jury for doing his dirty work for him.

The prosecutor doesn’t need to go to a grand jury for charges (and he’s not required to abide the grand jury decision, btw). He can bring charges himself.  He’s the prosecutor, that’s his job. Still can, in fact, a grand jury doesn’t count as double jeopardy.

Not only did he unnecessarily ask permission from the  grand jury for charges, but he didn’t even recommend any. Now this is where it starts to gets good. He decided that transparency was the better option. This is his justification. He just wanted all of the information out there, and let the chips fall where they may. Prick. He did a document dump on the grand jury. He overloaded them with information to confuse and obscure, to circumlocute and obfuscate.

Rather than recommending charges and giving evidence for prosecution of said charges – he gave the grand jury a course in case law. He told them about all of the possible ways in which Wilson could be charged. And to apply each of those individual standards to each bit of evidence heard.

He decided to give the defense, as well as the prosecution. Yes. The county prosecutor decided to act as Wilson’s defense attorney as well. Because transparency. He brought a cacophony of witnesses with often conflicting testimony. Wilson testified carte blanche for four hours, while witnesses with countering narratives were frequently challenged.

Witness 40 (Sandra McElroy) came forward four weeks after the incident on August 9th, once Wilson’s defense was broadcast to the world. She claimed that Brown charged at Wilson like a football player. Backed up Wilson’s story to a tee. Fox News and AM hate-radio latched onto her testimony and ran with it. This proved that Brown was the aggressor, that he was a grave threat to Wilson. (Odd claim, that an unarmed man would charged an armed officer.)

In fact, her journal insists that she randomly drove to West Florissant that day because she wanted to see how blacks live, so that she could start calling them people instead of niggers. Other journal entries and facebook posts show her calling black folks both apes and monkeys.

She also has a documented history of lying to law-enforcement. Twice in the past, she had insisted that she was witness to high-profile St. Louis-area cases involving officers. Each time she was found to have been lying, and was not allowed to testify.

Oh, and she is bi-polar. Which wouldn’t be germane, except that she hasn’t taken her medication in over 25 years.

Sandra McElroy’s defense? Prosecutor McCullough knew all along. He knew that she is racist. Knew of her medical history. Knew of her history of lying to the police. Knew that she wasn’t even there that fateful day (which he readily admits). Bob McCullough knowingly put a witness on the stand to commit perjury. To be Wilson’s star witness.

And this is great. The Supreme Court has said that law enforcement are allowed to use deadly force against someone who is fleeing, only when the suspect is committing a felony. And only when the officer has reason to believe that their life is in danger. (Which is why it is very difficult to convict – not indict – convict an officer who simply says they felt threatened. Making it all the more odd that McCullough went this route.)

So, right before Wilson was set to testify, the assistant district attorney gave a handout to the grand jury. And told them that Missouri law gives an officer permission to use deadly force simply if someone runs away from them. This was the mindset they took when Wilson took the stand. That if Brown simply ran away, which he certainly did, then Wilson was definitively justified in killing him.

That was the law. Prior to 1985, at least. Now of course, Bob McCullough knew this. And so, hours before deliberation began, the grand jury was given another handout. And told to fold the other handout in half, since there was a portion that the SCOTUS ruled against, but failed to specify which portion.

A grand juror queried whether a Supreme Court decision and federal law trumped Missouri state law. The response was  – As far as you need to know, just don’t worry about that.

Yes. Yes! America. Just don’t worry about it.

Nation Lost: How to Restore the Dream





Our institutions have failed us. Catholic priests. Steroids in baseball. Supreme Court picked the president. WMDs in Iraq. North_face_south_tower_after_plane_strike_9-11Corporate media has lost all credibility. We were told to get a degree, and students are ravaged with debt. baseballWe were told to invest in a home, values plummeted, and we were forclosed. The government bailed out the banks, and no one went to jail. Not only are the settlements but a fraction of quarterly profits, but are 50% tax fucking deductible.

The Corporatist State 2011 Shankbone

The stock market keeps breaking all-time records. They tell us the Recession has been over for years. That the unemployment rate keeps dropping. But more and more people are dropping out of the job market, the jobs we do find are lower paying than before, and the recovery hasn’t reached working people. Decades of wage-stagnation combined with over-taxation are disappearing the middle class.

K_Street_-_Evacuation_Route_(7496793860)We have no faith that our government is capable of reversing these trends. We instinctively know that our politics has been corrupted. A recent study showed that our democracy is effectively broken – that public policy only reflects public opinion when the wealthy agree.

congressBoth Republican and Democratic party brands are toxic. Congress struggles to achieve an approval rating equal to lice. Somehow, these corrupted and unpopular incumbents with toxic brand names who have little chance of fixing anything are reelected over 90% of the time.

Polls have shown that nearly a quarter of Americans want their state to secede from the union, and three-in-ten think a revolution may be necessary in the near future. Anti-government militia groups have increased nearly ten-fold since 2008.

We are justified in our rage, but it must be focused.

What does revolution look like in America? How do we fix our economy? Our country? We need only look inward, the solutions can be found in our past.

We Built This

Cape Coast Castle’s Door of No Return, Ghana

We came from Europe and killed the natives – free land. We imported unpaid labor to exploit the natural resources and erect infrastructure.

Obama visiting Cape Coast Castle

Genocide & slavery – chapters one and two of how America built it’s wealth. It’s unpleasant to think about because it’s ugly, but it’s important we keep perspective.

The cotton gin, tobacco, gold, steel, & oil (eventually autos). Robber barons exploited lax regulation & labor rights to amass vast amounts of wealth.

Northern Virginia Army Battle Flag
Northern Virginia Army Battle Flag

Volunteers_of_America_Soup_Kitchen_WDCFive decades after the Civil War, we fought in the Great War (WWI). We came home and partied our way through the Roaring Twenties before the Great Depression.

Income inequality (wealth inequity) reached astronomic proportions, unemployment reached 25%, there were bank-runs and the markets failed. (Sound vaguely familiar?)

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Elected in 1932, FDR promptly put in place the New Deal. Social Security for the elderly and the sick. The Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration put the unemployed to work. The National Labor Relations Act established the right to unionize. The Glass-Steagall Act regulated banks. The Securities and Exchange Commission restrained Wall Street.

eisenhowerIn 1931 the income tax rate for the wealthiest Americans was just 25%, before being raised to 63% in ’32. Raised again to 79% in ’36, maxing out at 94% in ’44 during WWII. War-led manufacturing was ramped up to the point that unemployment dropped to just 2%. The US was the best place to invest following WWII. The New Deal ensured that increases in productivity were proportional with increases for wage-earners. They were intertwined.John_F._Kennedy,_White_House_photo_portrait,_looking_up

We established the GI Bill for veterans, and made universities very, very affordable for in-state students. Eisenhower built the Interstate Highway system. JFK challenged us to land on the moon.

The Marshall Plan rebuilt Europe, and turned our enemies into economic allies. So renewed was our competition abroad, that growth at home began to sputter. LBJ responded with the Great Society – Civil Rights, Voting Rights, Medicare & Medicaid.

America had fixed the banks and the financial markets, had greatly reduced unemployment, gave assistance to the elderly, the poor, the sick, students, and veterans. Civil rights were established. The middle class grew and grew along with our economic strength. A single income was enough to support a home, a car, and a college education for our kids. We rebuilt our enemies, and we won the race to the moon. We were the shining city on the hill.

Dream Lost

Arthur Laffer
Laffer Curve
Laffer Curve

Part of LBJ’s Great Society was lowering the income tax rate for the wealthiest Americans from 91% to 77% in 1964, and 70% in ’65. The economy responded well. The Laffer Curve later emerged – showing that lowering top tax rates even further would further stimulate economic growth.

US_Supreme_Court_Justice_Lewis_Powell_-_1976_official_portrait
Powell
SCOTUS, circa 1973
SCOTUS, circa 1973

Lewis Powell, Jr. was a graduate of Harvard Law. He represented the tobacco industry at a time when they were trying to convince us that smoking cigarettes would not lead to lung cancer. He was a board member of Phillip Morris, and Chairman of the Richmond (VA) School Board. In 1971, the Powell Memo (Attack on the American Free Enterprise System) was sent to a friend/member of the US Chamber of Commerce, and spread among business leaders. The Powell Memo urged the Chamber to be more aggressive in bending politics to the will of big business.

Nixon appointed Lewis Powell to the Supreme Court in 1972. In 1976, the SCOTUS kneecapped campaign finance limits and the Federal Election Commission. Their Buckley v Valeo ruling meant that since corporations are people and money is speech, corporations could use their wealth to buy politics (so long as they spread the wealth).

Reagan_BoraxoReagan came into office in 1980, having been accused of preaching voodoo economics (by George H.W. Bush in the primaries). Reaganomics is the supply-side approach to growth. It is the idea that if we give the wealthy more tax cuts, they will use their increased profits to hire the rest of us. Reagan lowered the top income tax rate from 70% to 50% in ’82, and 28% in ’88.

wagesproductivity
Improved productivity no longer filters down to wage-earners.
US_Income_Tax_Rate
Notice the arch that begins in the 1930’s and ends in the 1980’s.

To recap, the top income tax rates were between 70-94% from 1936-1982. We created programs to help the poor, elderly, sick, and students. We kept the banks and financial sectors in check. We built infrastructure and invested in research & development.

USIncomeInequality8square.svg
A rising tide lifts all boats. Until it doesn’t. Notice the bottom 20% has basically flat-lined. Even the top 5% has grown much more slowly than the .01%.

The top income tax rate has not been back above 40% for over 30 years now. Corporate tax revenues (% GDP) have hit a 50-year low. Union rights have been busted, numerous trade agreements have shipped manufacturing jobs overseas. We’ve deregulated the banks and financial industries. Our grand experiment with supply-side economics has been a disastrous failure.

We’ve tried sending both parents to work. We’ve tried piling up credit card and student debt, high interest mortgages and auto loans. We have programs to subsidize our low wages, from food stamps and section 8 to the mortgage tax and EITC – but it’s simply not enough to keep up with the costs of living and raising a family. We cannot continue to tax the middle class into oblivion, just so the wealthy can be lavished with more and more.

Reclaim the Dream

495px-Hiroshima-NagasakiTo get back on top, we have to remix the elements that led to such great post-WWII growth. While we can’t bomb competing economies into submission, we can make America the most attractive place to invest again. We’ve tried using tax breaks as incentive for decades now, with increasingly horrendous results.

800px-Fiber_optic2We attract businesses with infrastructure. IPhone_San_JoseWe need to have highly functional roads, bridges and ports, fiber-optic internet, buried cables, an efficient power grid, an highly-educated workforce, etc. Doing these things not only attracts businesses, but creates job for Americans. Most importantly, we attract business by having a vast consumer-class with plenty of disposable income with which to purchase goods and services at local businesses.Black_Friday_by_Powhusku

Consumers = jobs. Businesses need our consumers. We have the leverage.451px-IPhone_Fashion_Valley

We know how to build a vibrant middle class. We know how to help the elderly and the sick. We know how to reduce homelessness. We know how to reduce poverty. We know how to educate our kids. We’ve done it all before. It wasn’t all that long ago. So why don’t we do it already?

Republicans proudly bow the wealthy, whom they refer to as job creators. Democrats can only go so far before their corporate sponsors put them in check.

Root of All Evil

The Supreme Court has effectively legalized political bribery. They’ve ruled that money is speech, which means congress does not have the authority (let alone the ability) to limit political donations.

Thus, elections keep getting more and more expensive, which means raising more and more money. Our politicians have little choice but to spend all day listening to the perspective and worries of the wealthy, special interest groups, and lobbyists. Politicians literally (and admittedly) owe their careers to their sponsors. It only stands to reason that they work together to please their real employers, their corporate sponsors, not the people.

Comcast-Time_Warner_Cable_LogoMost of that money goes to the corporate media (90% of US media is owned by just six corporations) to buy all of those shitty campaign ads. They are laughing all the way to the bank, and they like their low corporate effective tax rates. Corporate media has no incentive to tell us how multinational corporations bought our government.

Cure All

jefferson28th Amendment. Our founding fathers bequeathed us a living document. The Bill of Rights are the initial ten amendments to the US Constitution. We’ve added 17 amendments since. Seventeen! Every generation does it, and it’s our turn now.

There are plenty of ways to tinker with government that may be worth considering – electoral college, gerrymandering, term limits, public financing, compulsory voting, etc. But the silver bullet to corruption is the elimination of money as political speech.

Our founding fathers knew a time like this could happen, when the courts and federal government were beyond corrupt. They gave power to the people to go over the heads of the federal government and the courts. State can call a constitutional convention and ratify an amendment with a two-thirds vote.

Susan_B._Anthony_on_her_50th_birthday
Susan B. Anthony

Rosa ParksIt’s certainly no small task. But look at at this way – women got the 19th Amendment passed, and they couldn’t even vote! We have to fight the system within the system. It takes planning and organization. It takes phone-banking and door-to-door canvassing. It takes sacrifice. The Civil Rights Act did not simply descend from the heavens. Rosa Parks did not simply sit on a bus one day. They are not going to simply hand the power back to the people, we must take it from them. We must fight.

Ben FranklinWhen emerging from the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin was asked what we had. He replied – A republic, if you can keep it.

We have to take the states before they become as corrupt as congress. It will happen if we don’t stand up now. We have no choice. California and Vermont have already called for an amendment. More states are joining the charge. We will take our country back. We have no choice.

Why Should I Vote?




7/13/12

Does My Vote Even Matter? – The Democratic Role of an American Citizen

Congress sucks. The president sucks. All they do is take my taxes and give it all to welfare and foreign aid. Politicians are all liars – they’re corporate shills corrupted by greed and legal bribery. Why should I bother with choosing the lesser of two-evils? Why should I care? Why vote?

On social media, in the break room, in the sauna – this is what a lot of people have to say about politics. And there’s relative truth in it. Given the dysfunction and negativity, it’s easy for a lot of folks to become jaded with politics and politicians. Why bother?

The government can kill you. drone1

I’m not just talking about crime and punishment, due process and jury-of-your-peers style capital punishment.

No, I’m talking about the war-without-borders, extra-judicially determine you to be an enemy-combatant, & drop-a-hellfire-missile-from-a-flying-robot style kill you.

Give or take the missile.

It’s easier that way, you see. Since you are an American citizen, you have certain rights – Miranda, presumed innocence, legal representation, judicial process, cruel & unusual punishment protection – those types of things. That being the case, killing you is …simpler. Simpler than locking you up in Guantanamo and torturing you for years on end while suspended in legal limbo. justice

Minimal paperwork that way, and scant media attention. Win-win.

Oh, and government decides whether you count as three-fifths of a person, and whether you are regarded as personal property. The gov’t decides whether to throw you in an internment camp, and whether you can be assassinated for posing an imminent threat.

You may be thinking – I’m not a terrorist. I live comfortable enough, so why should I care about any of that?

The government decides whether or not you deserve to vote. The government defines privacy. The government defines speech. The government defines “person” dammit!

wethepeopleThe government decides whether the freedoms bestowed us in the Constitution hold meaning – or whether those rights are simply scribbles on an old piece of paper that would crumble to dust in mere sunlight.

And yet therein lies our salvation; that great disinfectant – sunlight.

This is not meant to be a scare-piece, and this is certainly no anti-government screed. This is a democracy, and our solutions lie their within. It’s a simple matter of understanding a little bit of history and few basic nuts & bolts.

Still not convinced? Too meta?

bridge

Roads & Bridges

You can’t build them on your own. We all drive on them, and we all buy products shipped on them.

Then there is public transportation – buses, ferries, & railways moving us about. We have highway patrol to ensure public safety on roads & sidewalks.ambulance

We have 9-1-1 to call in case of an emergency. Fire trucks to show up when our house catches on fire, and ambulances that take us to emergency rooms – required by law to help us.

Courts, jails & mental hospitals for violent criminals.liberty

We build libraries and schools for our kids’ education, and Pell grants for college. We build dams, wind farms power plants & grids for energy.

We take our kids to national & state parks – while maintaining and protecting our natural & national treasures from the Grand Canyon to Mount Rainier and Yellowstone, Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, the Statue of Liberty.

Plus local parks and playgrounds, swimming pools, lakes, softball fields, basketball and tennis courts.

The EPA protects the very air we breathe and water we drink. FDA approves the products we use – from steaks and eggs we eat to toothpaste and lipstick, from aspirins and condoms to lead in our babies’ crib and the brakes on our cars..

We landed the first man on the moon with NASA. We invented the internet and laser surgery with R&D grants.eisenhower

The Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, National Guard, Coast Guard, JSOC, FBI, CIA, SSI, SNAP, HUD, SEC, CPB, Medicare, Medicaid…

Mortgage, business, and student loan rates? That’s gov’t.

Taxes & fees? Sales tax is on everything. Gov’t in is our electric bill, cell phone bill, cable bill, power bill, firearms (FAET), alcohol & tobacco (sin tax). We pay for the privilege to drive, auto licensing, fishing, hunting, adoption, marriage license, building permits, tolls…Elizabeth_Warren_Nov_2_2012

We need a business license, and proof of citizenship – just to go to work and make a living.

Government is as ubiquitous as the air we breathe and death itself. Please believe they regulate the very air I breathe, and it’s damned expensive to die here.

Since I’m not going anywhere – and I’ll assume that if you are still reading this then you are staying put as well – we’ll have to find a way to work together to make this whole self-governance thing work for us, and not against us.

Ad Nauseam

The problem with politics of course, is the politicians.

Unless you are a political junkie, then about all you know about these politicians is what you see on bumper stickers, facebook shares, and 30-second attack ads.ike

Those ads. You know the ones:

My opponent is evil because he voted this way or said that & freedom will die if you elect my opponent. Vote for me since I’m great. My name is such and such, and I approve this message.” The End.

They spend billions of dollars on these 30-second hack-jobs, and all the public sees is a bunch of muck-raking bottom-feeders.

Follow the Money

As with all else, it boils down to the money.bribe

Ninety percent of elections are won by the candidate with the biggest campaign war-chest. Veritable elections at auction. The average Senate seat costs a mere $10m – and over $1.6m for a House seat. So where do those billions come from (before being shoveled off to media conglomerates for ad-buys)?

K st

Why, legal bribery, of course! The only limit is a given candidates’ individual inability to cash in. Thus, members of Congress now spend 40% of their time working the phones for cash, as encouraged by their respective party leaders.

Imagine you are sent to Washington – you are then coerced into spend nearly half your time begging special interest groups and know-it-all millionaires for no-strings-attached handouts – and much of the rest of your time dealing with co-workers who struggle to maintain 15% approval ratings. Poor babies…

So why do it?

Government Sachs

Political office now serves as an entry-level job. From 1998-2012, 79% of the 352 congress people who left office have been employed as a lobbyist – peddling influence. Many more opt for think tanks and social welfare groups.revovling door

Congresspeople author legislation and serve on committees with authority over a given industry – with the knowledge that they have a job waiting for them in that very industry, regulators too. This is known as the revolving door.

Not only that, but they use knowledge gleaned from closed-door congressional hearings and reports, to build their portfolios.Revolving_Door_Sign

The average net worth of a US Senator in the 113th Congress is up to just over $2.5 million – and over $850k for House members.

As with many of problems, the solutions to these seem to be screaming out. So why haven’t we fixed them yet?

 

congress

Sausage Making

Imagine you woke up one day at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Consider this, there are 535 folks down the block who get a say in this thing too.boehner2

The House requires whipping up agreement amongst more than 200 duly elected representatives with biennial elections and their own political motivations – just to keep the lights on. Herding stray cats, as it were.
reid

One hundred senators in the upper chamber, two per state, six-year terms.

The problem? Suddenly, the basic democratic principle that majority rules has been tossed out with the trash.
mcconnell
The founding fathers set very specific vote-requirements for respective aspects of governing – but today’s senate eschews the Constitution (and often the American people) by instead requiring a new filibuster-proof 60% majority.

While the filibuster was invented in 1837 – it was never invoked more than ten times by a given Congress until 1979-80, and never more than 60 times until the 2000’s. However, since 2007-08, 130+ filibusters is suddenly the new norm. The same is true of cloture motions.

And not the old-school Jimmy Stewart, stand-your-ground and plead-your-case style filibuster either – the neo-filibuster is sent in a midnight e-mail, and prevents even simple debate from occurring on the Senate floor.

mr.smith

 

Filibuster reform itself is strangely exempt from the 60-vote threshold and can be realized with a simple majority-vote every two years – and in theory at any time granted the nuclear option (or constitutional option, depending whether you are in the minority/majority.

So what’s the holdup? They’re too scurred.

Why does it matter? Since the 101st Congress that began in 1979, there has been a steady decline in the number of bills signed into law. And so it came to pass that our 112th Congress shattered the statistical record for congressional ineptitude.

Granted numbers don’t tell the whole story, as not every bill is as profound as the Civil Rights Act, and many are ceremonial namings of post offices – but I believe the approval ratings tell the gist of the story where Congress is concerned.

Primaried Gerrymanders

Today class, we meet a new verb – it is know as being… primaried.

gerrymander1812 Boston Gazzette political cartoon of Gov. Gerry’s gerrymandered senate district.

Congressional lines are bipartisanly gerrymandered in an manner which corrals like-minded voters with similar voting patterns into “safe” districts for the incumbent majority-party. This rejiggering of haphazardly shapen safe districts is done every ten years with updated census numbers.

In these safe districts, the only fear of the incumbent is that of being outflanked within party ranks by someone more extreme in a future primary election – hence the term primaried. The result of this has both parties snarling at each other across exceedingly distant party-lines with exceedingly ideological representatives.

Perhaps as vile, is the notion that representatives get to choose their voters, when it is the voters who should be determining the representatives.

While fewer & fewer people self-identify with either major party – in fact only between 3-5% actually vote for both sides. Between the muck-raking and the corruption, the vast public disapproval and hair-pulling ineptitude – why would any sane person voluntarily submit themselves to labels associated with these bunch of cads?

ballotbox

Because giving up is not an valid option – and again our solution is quite simple. We have technology perfectly capable of drawing more fair voting districts – and thus removing the (bi)partisan gerrymandering & the partisan politics from the equation of fair elections in America.

Cash for Votes?

On the topic of fair elections; while in-person voter fraud is nearly non-existent (roughly .0004%) there has recently been massive attacks on voter rights. Voter-suppression tactics go straight at heart of democracy. It is no longer self-governance it you are not allowed to participate. Taxation without representation.

Simple fix: opt-out voter-registration. Many valid options – we have a social security number, we could also have a separate personal voter-ID number. Better yet, we could attach voter registration to driver’s licensing and (free) state IDs – or to registration for the draft when we turn 18.

Compulsory voting would be ideal – we could give a $50 tax credit for voting. The more people taking ownership of government the better – no matter their political leanings.

flag

Champagne Problems

Money. Rules. Politics.

This thanks to astonishing judicial mishaps, including but not limited to – Citizens United v FEC (2010), Buckley v Valeo (1976), Pembina Consolidated Silver Mining Co. v Pennsylvania (1888) & Dartmouth College v Woodward (1812).

scotus

Long story short; corporations are people, and money is speech. Since free speech shall not be infringed, corporations are free to lavish politicians with piles of legal bribery to their heart’s content.

And with Dodge v Ford Motor Company (1916), fiduciary responsibility instructs corporations to abide only by the rule of profit, with no regard for community or greater good.

Hence 501(c)3 non-profits, and 501(c)4 social welfare organizations. These sometimes shadowy groups bundle and shift around dark money from behind closed doors – sometimes with shadowy intent. They run propaganda laden attack ads just before an election, funded with multinational corporate profits, and cartel & terrorist groups’ drug money – no disclosure of where the money came from and thus no accountability for the lies they may be telling the public on election’s eve.

US_Supreme_Court_Justice_Lewis_Powell_-_1976_official_portrait
Lewis Powell, of Powell Memo fame

The Federal Election Campaign Act (1971) prohibited donations from foreign nationals, banks, government contractors, corporations, and unions. It also required that candidates disclose the sources of political contributions, and their total campaign expenditure, to the Federal Election Commission. Unfortunately, big-moneyed interests immediately began tearing down these achievements, and show no sign of mercy.

We need constitutional amendments to put and end to corporate personhood and money as speech. Publicly funded elections would also solve this problem.

Money rules politics, but money rules everything, so this is no big surprise. That serving as our backdrop…

Virginia is for Lovings

Fred_Korematsu_NPS
Fred Korematsu

For all that is broken today, we’ve seen far worse in the past.

DredScottIn 1787, the US Constitution counted certain “other persons” (as opposed to free persons) as only 3/5ths. In the 1857 Dred Scot case, and then with Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), the US Supreme Court upheld slavery & segregation (ahem) respectively as being perfectly valid in this, a supposedly free country. Then in 1944 the SCOTUS ruled in favor of Japanese internment camps in Korematsu v. US.

Legal second-class citizens.

Susan_B._Anthony_on_her_50th_birthday
Susan B. Anthony

Since then, SCOTUS wisely ruled on Brown v. Board & Loving v. Virginia – to strike down “separate but equal”, and to protect interracial marriage rights.

Our founding fathers knew a time could come when congress and the courts would be too corrupted. Thanks to Article V, the states have the power (two-thirds) to amend the Constitution without them.

With the 13th Amendment (1865), 19th Amendment (1920), and the Civil Rights Act (1964) – we’ve righted some of our more egregious wrongs. Time has come.

civil rights act

This should serve as perspective when we encounter future obstacles to progress.

Living Document

Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, he was also a member of the Democratic-Republican Party. So while political parties may come and go, morph and evolve; our rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness have remained.

This is why we vote, because our legislators have the charge of keeping our Constitution.jefferson

Our Constitutional rights are not just words on a piece of paper. Not just words. But a demand – for a more perfect union.

Sure, roughly 80% of world countries are democracies – but this is America dammit! We’re exceptional – baseball, apple-pie, amber waves of grain, red, white & blue! USofA! If we plan on remaining kings of the proverbial hill, it’s gonna take some work – and the first step is getting off of your butt and opening your eyes.

Our founding fathers entrusted us with great freedoms. We have the right to criticize and to organize, to ensure that our collective concerns and grievances are heard and recognized. We have the ability and the charge – to make change happen. And with those freedoms come responsibility.

baseball

Whether your fight is over corporate person-hood or deregulation, religious freedom or equal rights. Free speech or campaign finance, imperialism or nanny state. Pro-choice or pro-life, Voter ID or immigration. Deficit spending or welfare state, Halliburton & Lockheed Martin or habeas corpus. Or campaign finance or 2nd Amendment rights or drones.apple pie

I can’t tell you how to think. I’m not smart enough to know all of the answers. I don’t know what your priorities are and how they weigh on your political views when you vote. But I do know that the more people who pay attention, the more regular people the politicians are responsible to.

So my message is to vote. For whomever you please, just do it. Because the debates are happening all of the time, on our behalf. The wheels of government are always turning, whether we bother to pay attention or not decisions are being made. And I don’t trust them enough to do it without the rest of us.

flag2

To me? I was blessed to be born here, with great freedoms. But as an American citizen, it is also my responsibility to keep these elected officials in line. They must be analyzed, they must be scrutinized … they must useful! And if they are ineffective? They must be poked, they must be prodded, they must be provoked. Most importantly, they must be motivated. And the way I. Me. Justin Earick. The way I personally motivate my representatives? With my vote. I’m the boss. I’m HR. I decide who deserves to represent me in government. With my vote, and with my voice.

Nation of Immigrants

steve king
Rep. Steve King





Immigration policy isn’t generally a water-cooler issue. It seems to comes up around election time. Some say things like, American businesses want immigration reform. Are you going to deport 12 million people? Rip their families apart? It’s not only cruel, it’s expensive to round up and deport 12 million people. And some say things like Illegals! Anchor babies! Build a higher fence! ISIS and Ebola are coming across the border! They’re taking our jobs! “For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.Then after the election, the issue is largely forgotten.

DREAMersWell, this time immigration activists refused to be pushed aside. They camped out in offices of politicians. They pressed them on their cause, and recorded the embarrassing results. And when promises were broken, they focused their efforts on their allies. Obama was decreed Deporter in Chief. He’s been repeatedly heckled by immigration activists,  even since these latest executive actions. They make change happen. Yet and still, they refuse to be satiated by empty rhetoric and half-measures. They are relentless, they are tireless. They embody the immigrant work ethic. Most importantly, their families will be torn apart if they are unsuccessful. Si se puede!

Thus, President Obama announced executive actions that could effect roughly 40% of undocumented immigrants.This has sparked discussions that have genuinely surprised me. (There I go again, assuming my fellow Americans are inherently good people.) Hence, I take to my keyboard.

Ellis Island, 1900
Ellis Island, 1900

japanesepledgeWe are a nation of immigrants. Unless you are a Native American, your family came here from somewhere else (most of us by choice). Every group that comes here faces discrimination. It’s nothing new. We hated the Irish. We hated Italians. Greeks. Poles. None of them were considered white like us at first. They were all ridiculed as inferior, and were blamed for taking jobs from real Americans. Importantly, this is not simply an American thing. And it’s certainly nothing new.

The_Subsidised_MineownerLook, I get it. When financial times are tough we look for places to point our fingers. We’ve experienced nearly 40 years of wage stagnation, accentuated by a Recession with no calling-to-account. And a recovery that hasn’t. But it’s important we not be distracted. We cannot fall into the all-too-easy trap of taking frustration out on the most vulnerable, simply because we have the power to do so. There is no such thing as an illegal person, and human beings should not be referred to as aliens. Nativism and xenophobia are ugly. America is not supposed to be ugly.statue1

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

This is our heritage. It is our responsibility to ensure that America the Beautiful rings true. That a nation of immigrants feel empathy for immigrants.

jesus1Deification aside, I have great respect for the teachings of one Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus taught compassion. He taught mercy over sacrifice. He told of the good samaritan. He said to treat the least of these as you would Him. To treat strangers as you would Him. To love your neighbor. (Old Testament is full of immigration-friendly verses.)

Using religion for public policy is certainly problematic, given the separation of church and state. But this is after all, a majority-Christian nation. And it shows that immigration has been an issue since, forever. So if it helps…

border 2It’s time we pause and talk about who they are. Immigration generically means people come from Mexico to a lot of us. The plurality of undocumented immigrants are from Mexico.  But people come to America from all over the world (and net migration from Mexico has been less than zero since the Recession). And the one’s who do come here are people who worked and saved. Who had not only the gumption, but the will to follow through.

statue2People don’t come here because they are lazy. People come here to make a better life for their family. Because they believe in American. They believe that America is where hard work and integrity is rewarded. They believe us when we tell them that we are a melting pot. A nation of immigrants. Of justice, of fairness, of compassion. They believed us when we told them that we were the shining city of the hill.

flag2So who are we, anyways? Are we who we say we are? What is America? And what does it mean to be American? Is it simply a genetic lottery? Is it not someone who lives here? Who loves here? Who go to school, who pay taxes? Are we to round up and deport 12 million people? People who look at the stars and stripes with more appreciation and admiration than anyone else possibly can? Who only want to be accepted and allowed to remain with their families?

Why are we so compelled to tear them apart? Why must we be so cruel? Are things so bad now? What if we had sealed the borders after the Great Depression? After the Civil War? The Revolutionary War? Would you be here now? Are we so superior a nation that we should seal our borders? Are we North Korea?

rupert murdochcespedesPoliticians speak of the best and the brightest. Net-positives. Businessmen and athletes and entertainers. STEM fields.

cryingBut some are the sole representative of their family. Who had to scrape and scrimp for years just so one of their children could one day go to America. So just one of their children could one day find the American dream, and send riches back home. Can you imagine? You send one of your kids to school and eventually America, and they scream and fight, because a kid just wants to stay with his family? And you never see them again, because they can’t get back into America if they visit home? While your other children work because you cannot afford for them to go to school, too?

Airliner_crosses_the_SUNSure, that’s a sad picture. And certainly not representative of all undocumented immigrants. Maybe the whole family sneaks across the southern border with help from a coyotaje. Maybe a whole family comes from Japan on a jetliner, and simply overstay their visas ad infinitum. Everyone has a story, and many had to struggle to get here.

Once here? Fortunately, it is illegal to require a k-12 student to prove citizenship. So we are pretty good about educating undocumented children. And more states are allowing driver’s licensing sans proof of citizenship as well.

Social_Security_cardHowever, a job requires a Social Security number. If you simply happen across one, you will be paying taxes you’ll never see again. (And we need you paying into the system – we have a bunch of Baby Boomers to support, and our birth rate cannot keep up.) If you aren’t fluent in English, you will be considered less intelligent. Kitchen work. Construction if you’re lucky. If no SS#, then options are limited. Under-the-table work. Housekeeping, landscaping. We’ve all seen folks around the Home Depot.

migrant workersSeasonal. Farm. Work. This goes to the whole idea of immigrants taking our jobs. Americans refuse to pick oranges or apples or tomatoes or peaches or whatever else. We’ve tried, and failed spectacularly. We’ve passed strict laws with harsh punishments for being caught employing undocumented immigrants (Alabama, for instance), and crops were lost because we refuse to do such back-breaking work for such little pay. Won’t do it.

statue 6We rely upon cheap farm labor. Produce is already expensive enough, especially compared to the dollar menus at fast food chains. If we forced agricultural corporations to pay all of their workers minimum wage, the price of produce would skyrocket. (P.s. Not an endorsement of slave-wages. Shows how we take undocumented workers for granted. And how both they, and immigration policy, effect our daily lives.)statue4

statue3The thing about our current system, is that we force undocumented agricultural workers to stay. We have them trapped, in a sense. You see, if they go home after their seasonal work is done, we won’t let them back in the following year. They are practically hostages, our indentured servants. Because we don’t want to pay more for our food. And because agricultural corporations don’t want to pay their workers more, either. Tacit agreement.

statue5I need you here, I won’t let you go. But if you leave, I won’t take you back. And if that paycheck comes up short, or never at all? You gonna report me? You gonna go to the authorities and explain how you’re an illegal? You’re gonna shut your mouth. And if I want to take your wife or your daughter – what you gonna do? You wanna get deported? You want to get your family deported? Shut your mouth and get back to work. Bow your head. I make the rules. You are an illegal, a criminal. You are inferior. You are my scapegoat.

*DOMA has since been repealed. And while DACA provides temporary relief for some DREAMers, Mr. Vargas’ age disqualifies him

 

Ferguson and the Police State


mike brownWhile we may never know exactly what happened between Darren Wilson and Mike Brown on August 9th, there are many lessons to take from Ferguson.

Ferguson9What do we know? Mike Brown and Dorian Johnson were walking down the middle of a residential street when approached by Officer Darren Wilson in a squad car. There was an altercation while Wilson was still in the car, at least one shot was fired at close range. Mike Brown was killed roughly 50 yards from the squad car, shot at least six times, including twice in the head.Hands up

ferguson10Mike Brown’s body lay face-down in the streets for four hours. A crowd gathered. Family was on the scene even before homicide detectives were notified. No information. Frustration from the beginning. As we would come to learn, frustration was growing in the community long before the fateful events of August 9th.

ferguson13ferguson1Ferguson, Missouri was about two-thirds black, yet it’s mayor, police chief, and five-of-six city council members were white. The police department had only three non-whites, including a single black male. Eighty-seven percent of traffic stops were of black drivers. Traffic fines had dramatically increased in prior years, up to $2.6m in 2013. To the point that in 2013 alone, Ferguson’s population of 21,000 was issued nearly 33,000 warrants for non-violent offenses, mostly for unpaid traffic fines.ferguson15

Protests in the initial days following the death of Mike Brown were marred by isolated incidents of looting and vandalism. Looting attracted cameras. Cable news shows interviewed witnesses before investigators bothered – including Dorian Johnson, who claimed that Mike Brown had his hands raised in surrender when he was killed. Protests grew, along with media presence.fergson5

ferguson3Law enforcement responded heavy-handedly. Riot gear & urban tanks. LRADs. Snipers trained rifles on crowds of citizens. They fired tear gas in the streets, even onto private property. They put a curfew in place, and used force to break up protesters (violating 1st Amendment rights). They attacked entire crowds if one person was out of line. They put a no-fly zone in place to keep out the media. They physically assaulted journalists. They teargassed journalists and took their cameras down. They threatened to kill protesters.ferguson12

Chief Jackson
Chief Jackson

They refused to release a police report of the shooting. Chief Jackson chose instead to release a video of Mike Brown roughing up a convenience store clerk, supposedly in response to Freedom of Information Requests by media outlets. They later admitted that convenience store tapes had not been requested by anyone at all, that the FOIAs were actually in regards to a possible police report.ferguson11

County Prosecutor Bob McCullough’s father was a police officer who was killed in the line of duty. The Brown family called upon Governor Jay Nixon to appoint an independent prosecutor. McCullough has an ongoing relationship with local law enforcement, as they are often his witnesses in prosecutions. Nixon refused.

While it seemed the state could not have handled the situation any worse, there were few bright spots.

Captain Johnson
Captain Johnson

Captain Ron Johnson was a hero. When he was allowed to lead, law enforcement deescalated provocations, and protests were in kind peaceful. Captain Johnson walked among the crowds, allowed Americans to exercise their rights to assemble and protest.

antonio frenchYoung community leaders also emerged. Images emerged of protesters arm-in-arm guarding local businesses from out-of-town looters – and cleaning up afterward when they couldn’t.

But mostly ugliness. Cops wearing I am Darren Wilson bands, and t-shirts selling out. Let’s go Darren chants at a Cardinals playoff game. Far more money raised for Wilson than the Brown family. As is often the case, racial disparity of opinion is stark.

justiceThe case, or lack thereof, is now at hand. The grand jury will announce whether there will be charges any day now. Usually the prosecutor simply files charges on their own. McCullough has chosen instead to go to the grand jury.  Not only is he going to the grand jury unnecessarily. In this very unusual case, Prosecutor McCullough has taken the very usual step of not recommending charges to the grand jury. And instead offering the entire range of possible charges. Veritably teaching the grand jury a crash course on criminal law, pushing vast amounts of unnecessary information to consider on their plates. Even more odd, McCullough chose to provide a defense as well his prosecution (yes, the prosecutor argued against his own case).  Officer Wilson exercised his right to testify as well. Add to all of these oddities, the fact that McCullough has never in his career went to the grand jury in a case where an officer killed an unarmed black man – and came away with charges. Never once.

Two defenses, to but one (possibly half-hearted) prosecution. With no recommended charges, seemingly meant to confuse jurors. Stands to reason that hardly anyone anticipates that Wilson will in fact be charged. The Brown family is calling it a secret trial. Hidden from public view with no witness testimony (save Wilson).

ferguson7None of this is sitting very well with the community. If/when the announcement comes that Wilson will face no charges, this will neither sit well.

Gun sales in Missouri have gone through the roof. The KKK have been distributing flyers, warning of “lethal force” against protesters. Governor Nixon has ominously warned protesters as well – eerily reminiscent of George Wallace in the 1960’s. Nixon has preemptively declared a state of emergency, and readied the National Guard. St. Louis County police have spent over $172,000 preparing for war against it’s own citizens. Since August, they’ve bought 650 teargas grenades and 6000 Live X pepper balls (among other goodies).George_Wallace

Shit is real in Ferguson.

If only Missouri were an outlier, rather unfortunately, it is microcosm. Not only of a long and ugly tradition of mistreatment of the black community (for that, click here). And the way white America views black protest. Ferguson exemplifies a disintegrating relationship between an occupying and militarized police state, and the people they are supposed to be protecting. (They’re doing it to us now, too! I digress.)ferguson2 And also exemplary of the disintegration of civil liberties in modern American life.

In the wake of 9/11, and with two wars (hopefully, eventually, someday, maybe) winding down , congress decided to hand down military-grade equipment to local law enforcement (defense contractors are fantastic campaign donors). To the point that small town have armored urban tanks. The only catch is that they have to use it within a year, or give it back.

SWATSo they are using it. On us. A lot. SWAT teams in Florida raid barber shops for operating without a business license. SWAT has thrown a flash grenade into a crib, burning through to the ribs. SWAT is used to serve warrants. Often no-knock warrants. They raid the wrong addresses, kill countless house pets. SWAT have even claimed corporate status (after all, corporations have less oversight than government these days).

NSA fake logoNSA (et al) revelations have shown us myriad ways in which our Fourth Amendment rights are systematically and universally tossed asunder in the name of security. Our calls, emails, and online activities are being seized without reasonable suspicion. They monitor video game chats, porn habits, searches, texts… One warrant can gain access to say, Verizon. They exploit the vulnerabilities in our devices, they can hack into computers through the freaking motherboard!

holderPress freedom is under attack like never before. Also in the name of security. Obviously. Obama has used the espionage act against journalists more than all previous presidents combined. Journalists facing prison time for refusing to reveal sources. FBI impersonating journalists and planting fake stories. Media either dutifully churns gov’t approved propaganda, or is cracked down upon mercilessly.

occupy1Remember Occupy? Leaderless college kids and homeless people who blocked traffic? We saw the teargas and the arrests, but it was far more interesting than simply busting the heads of protesters. The FBI & Department of Homeland Security commiserated with local law enforcement in a coordinated effort to shut down protests. Pepper spray. Tear gas. Arrests. Heavy-handed suppression. Occupy may well have collapsed under it’s own weight, but the federal government and the banks were too cozy to let that play out.

occupy fuck apathyFerguson is neither taken lightly. Ferguson shows how the powers-that-be feel about our rights to free speech, free press, assembly, and protest.

Our rights are a nuisance. Inapplicable on both public and private properties. Inapplicable certain hours of the day, and at certain volumes (both numerically and audibly).

occupy wake upAmerican citizen have been executed sans trial, because “due process does not mean judicial process” anymore. Signature strikes means we don’t know who we are even killing. Imminent no longer means imminent. Threat no longer means threat. It’s getting awful Orwellian around here.

Shit is real in America.

Trayvon Martin: Is White America Capable of Empathy?

7/31/13justice

I hate celebrity trials. I loathe the wall-to-wall Nancy Grace-style coverage, and universal tunnel-vision that emerges in the media. The sudden explosion of folks with law degrees in the break-room and on facebook, the misplaced pop-culture passion & investment which suddenly evaporates post-verdict…sean bell

Personally, I try to avoid the darned things – just tell me the verdict and salient points, skip the gory details.Troy Davis

Moral Mondays
Moral Mondays

The case of Trayvon Martin was in the news long before the arrest and trial of George Zimmerman. Oscar GrantThe six weeks that passed between the time of Martin’s death and Zimmerman’s arrest was the onus of the coverage (or lack thereof). After all, young black men die in the streets at a far-too-alarming rate for the death of a single, (previously) anonymous teen to turn many heads. The only reason that any of us have ever even heard of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman is based solely upon the (in)actions of our law-enforcement system.

Post-verdict, the same can be said of our justice and legislative systems.

Kenneth Chamberlain
Kenneth Chamberlain
Medgar Evars
Medgar Evars
Emmett Till
Emmett Till

For the people lifting their voices in righteous indignation, and those too resigned to the inevitability with bowed heads – this is about far more than just Trayvon Martin, (George Zimmerman), Tracy Martin, & Sabrina Fulton. This is about more than Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, Oscar Grant, Kenneth Chamberlain, Medgar Evers, Emmett Till, Patrick Dorismond, Chavis Carter, Ramarley Graham, Ervin Jefferson, Johnny Gammage, Kimani Gray, Yusef Hawkins, Charles Hill, Eleanor Bumpurs, Kenneth Harding, James Byrd Jr, Timothy Stansbury Jr., Danroy Henry, Kendrec McDade, Latasha Harlins. Sherrise Iverson, Troy Davis, Bobby Hutton, Fred Hampton…Colored sign

Jim CrowThis is about a society and nation that has perpetually and institutionally failed the black community.KKK

 

Dred Scott
Dred Scott

Just consider the US Constitution; “other persons” = 3/5! We fought a Civil War over the the right of whites to own blacks as pets and personal property! Dred Scott. Plessy. Jim Crow, whites only, school segregation, separate-but-equal, literacy tests, red-lining, KKK, lynchings, burning crosses, fire hoses, church bombings. D.A.R.E.

James Crow Esquire III, Drug War, mandatory minimums, three strikes, prosecutorial aggression, peer juries, stop & frisk, profiling, school-choice, school-to-prison pipeline, predatory lending,  gentrification, voter suppression…Landscape

Bloody Sunday
Bloody Sunday

lunch counterGains have been made to be sure, and have been paid for with blood, sweat and tears. Bloody Sunday, sit-ins, bus strikes, March on Washington, Birmingham Campaign. Brown v Board, Loving v Virginia, 13th, 14th, & 15th Amendments to the US Constitution, Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act (ahem)…Landscape

Yes, the VRA, and our Supreme Court’s recent gutting of Section 5 therein – the highest court in the land veritably declaring the extinction of racism in American society.

In America… where birthers, “food stamp president”, and the “urban vote” with their “gifts” – have replaced the jezebel, the welfare queen, the strapping young buck, Willie Horton – 51% of whites and only 9% of blacks approve of the Zimmerman verdict.

Black
White
1. Life expectancy
75.1
78.9
2. US population
12.6%
72.4%
3. Prison population
39%
30%
4. Death row population
41%
40%
5. Executed since 1976
35%
56%
6. NYC population
23%
34%
7. Stopped & Frisked
53%
9%
8. 2009-2010 Doctorate’s
7.4%
74.3%
9. 2009-2010 Associate’s
13.7%
66.3%
10. College professors
5.5%
80.3%
11. Unemployment rate
13.7%
6.6%
12. Household income
$39,409
$62,545
13. Household wealth
$5,677
$113,149
14. Home ownership
45%
74%
15. Home value
$146k
$199k
16. Businesses owned
106,566
4,639,743
17. 500+ employee businesses
104
17,732
18. Fortune 500 CEOs
6
481
19. US Senators
8
1923
20. US Presidents
1
43
(1) (2) (3) (4) (5 ) (6,7) (8,9) (10) (11) (12) (13) (14) (15) (16,17) (18) (19)

The plight of black America is a long story involving hundreds of years of mistreatment that I am not capable of fully describing (read this). What the Zimmerman verdict shows, is the inability of many anglo-Americans to experience a little thing we call empathy.

Crip_handsignThere is an insidious vein that simply believes blacks folks are mentally inferior or particularly violent and sexualized. Media often perpetuates these stereotypes.

The_Subsidised_MineownerPoverty. Whites have a 300+ year head start in accumulation of wealth. Most wealth is passed down in the form of real estate, and blacks weren’t able to own property for much of our history. Property values are (ridiculously) diminished by the mere presence of blacks, who happen to have enough resources to live there (and lower property values means less money for schools). It takes a job to afford a house of course, and blacks are disproportionally unemployed. It’s tough to get a job without an education of course, and blacks earn far fewer degrees in US colleges with few minority faculty. A white felon is still as likely as a black man to be hired. Black kids are expelled from schools far more often than whites, and increasingly, breaking school rules leads to jailing.

mlkarrestWe’ve allowed the privatization of prisons, which in turn contribute to think tanks and politicians who author and pass legislation which ensures that the beds in prisons will be filled, and that resources for inmates will be seemingly nonexistent. We’ve shunned rehabilitation in favor of isolation and institutionalism. We’ve cut access to education in prisons, we shame inmates. We often won’t hire them or let them vote when they get out. Recidivism simply means repeat customers to the prison industrial complex.

bedsdnotjailsWe’ve utilized the War on Drugs as a tool to propagate the mass-incarceration of black men, who use and sell drugs at commensurate rates to whites. Blacks are 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, representing 37% arrested for overall drug use, and 59% in state prisons for drug offenses (which shows the racial disparity in sentencing). In 1980, 40,000 Americans were locked up for drug offenses, compared to 500,000 in 2012.

donotslamgateWe’re Number 1! In caging our own people. The US represents 5% of the world’s populations, yet 25% of the incarcerated. And we get people in the system as soon as possible, thus our school to prison pipeline
“Nationwide, African-Americans represent 15% of the population, 26% of juvenile arrests, 44% of youth who are detained, 46% of the youth who are judicially waived to criminal court, and 58% of the youth admitted to state prisons.”

Black on black crime. Everyone (save Native Americans) are victimized by their own ethnicity most often. This is not at all unique to the black community . Straw-man argument. Simple as that.

riotgearblackguyLeading up to the Zimmerman verdict, every conservative media outlet was predicting mass race-riots across the country if found not guilty. Profiling the entire black community the same way Zimmerman had done to Trayvon Martin that fateful night in February.

So this goes out to all of the ignoracists who don’t see themselves as prejudiced, who may have black friends at work and might hold the door open for elderly black folk. White privilege is being ignorant of the things you don’t have to deal with. To be ignorant or the institutional inequity inherent in America. To conveniently forget about hundreds of years oppression and suppression that persists today with thinly-veiled, carefully worded, seemingly-innocuous policy and practice.

7/31/13

Why is Iranian Nuclear Containment Insufficeint?




3/7/13
Slim Pickens, Dr. Stranglelove

Let me start out with this – if I had my druthers, there would be no nuclear weapons at all.

Unfortunately, I do not reside in Shangri-la, so this is obviously not the case. But, we do have many Nuclear Arms Control Treaties – and that’s progress.

I personally believe that weapons capable of ending all humanity are inherently inhumane, and we should strongly oppose uranium enrichment beyond 20% for nefarious purposes, pie-in-the-sky as that may be. As far as nuclear power goes, far more resources should go to ensuring that the process is done as safely as possible.

Yellow cake uraniuim

That being said – why is it so important to us that Iran specifically be denied access to not only nuclear weapons, but of even nearing the capability to do so?

The US has thousands of nuclear warheads. China has hundreds of them, as does Russia. France & the UK have around a hundred apiece. Pakistan has them. India. It is widely assumed Israel has 150-200.

And we do have a stated historical policy in these regards, and it’s called containment. We did, in fact, survive the Cold War with this policy in place, if memory serves.

Are we really to believe that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose a greater threat to Americans than the old Soviet Union throughout the entirety of the Cold War? Have we weakened so much since then?

We certainly haven’t slowed our defense spending.

Now former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Granted, Iranian President Ahmadinejad has proven time and again that he is an unabashed loon, but his presidential term runs out soon enough, and he’s mostly just a figurehead like the Queen of England. Fact is, the Supreme Leader holds more power, and in my uneducated opinion is far less an inflammatory provocateur. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong here, but at least publicly, the Ayatollah seems far less hostile to the West than is Ahmadinejad.

Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khāmenei
Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khāmenei

I do know this – Iran is a real country. Iran is not at all like Iraq or Afghanistan. There are 75 million men, women, and children in Iran. They have apartment buildings and office buildings. They have an $830 million shopping mall in Shiraz.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

And they love Americans. They love our culture. Believe it or not, the US has positive approval ratings among Iranians.

To be clear, I am not pro-Iran, and I don’t endorse any nuclear procurement or proliferation efforts – I just don’t quite understand all of the jitters we seem to have with Iran specifically.

Kim Jong-un

Meanwhile in Pyongyang, Kim Jong-un threatens a preemptive nuclear strike on the US in response to anticipated UN sanctions on North Korea. The official North Korean website, Uriminzokkiri, recently produced a video depicting a US city being bombed. North Korea also recently threatened to cancel the 1953 Korean War cease-fire.That being said – why is it so important to us that Iran specifically be denied access to not only nuclear weapons, but of even nearing the capability to do so?

So where exactly is our Red Line with North Korea? What about China?

During the 2012 US Presidential campaign, President Obama and Governor Romney jostled for position along the Red Line for Iran. We were assured that indeed, all options are on the table, including military force. In 2008, Republican presidential-nominee Senator John McCain, giddily joked about “bomb, bomb Iran.”

So why is Iran taken so seriously as a threat, and North Korea is… less so.

The elephant in the room, of course, is our relationship with Israel.

The US & the West in general are largely Judeo-Christian. Many of us believe that the Holy Land belongs to God’s Chosen People, and that eventually the rapture occurs and a time later Jesus/God covers the earth and it’s non-believing Gentile inhabitants with fire – leaving the entire planet for Christians. Zionism.

Iran & the Middle East in general are largely Muslim, and they lay claim to Jerusalem as their Holy Land as well. And while I’m no theology major, there’s that whole infidels and jihad thing.

“The last hour will not come unless there is much bloodshed.” Hadith Sahih Muslim 41:6903

Thus, America and Israel are best buds (with a nod to Saudi Arabia).

While I may have some concerns with Intifadas & building on settlements and overnight shellings and whatnot – Israel is in a tough spot considering their geographic vulnerability.

With the fall of Mubarek, all of Israel’s borders seem tenuous at best. So they really could use a big buddy with seemingly infinite funds for seemingly infinite weapons capabilities.

Of course, Israel has their Iron Dome missile defense system.

And let us not forget the Stuxnet computer virus. Assassination of nuclear scientists. US drones that just happen to accidentally stray into Iran.

So should we have any Red Lines for Israel as well? (GASP!)

If Israel & Iran went to war, regardless of how it started, would the US have any choice at all but to join our ally in battle?

What if Israel were to preemptively strike Iran? Would we still be compelled to saddle-up?

By the time of the Iranian Islamic Revolution in 1979, US intelligence were already spreading the word that Iran had “set up a clandestine nuclear weapons development program.”

Then in 1984, West German intelligence suggested that Iran’s proliferation of a nuclear weapon “is entering its final stages.”

Recall the Wyle E. Coyote-style bomb art, with a literal Red Line, that Bibi shared with the UN in 2012.

So how close is Iran to weaponized nukes really?

  • Israeli President Bibi Netanyahu claimed in 1992 that Iran was “close” to said nuclear weaponization, and in his 1995 book that Iran was “three to five years” away.
  • The House Republican Research Committee reported, also in 1992, with “98 percent certainty that Iran already had all (or virtually all) of the components required for two or three operational nuclear weapons.”
  • Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres told ABC in 1996 that, “I believe that in four years they [Iran] may reach nuclear weapons.”
  • Israeli Minister of Defense Binyamin Ben-Eliezer told reporters, “As far as we know by the year 2005 they will, they might, be ready.”
  • Bush 43 warned in 2007 that a nuclear-armed Iran would inevitably lead to “World War III”.
  • Then-US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton predicted in 2008, that Israel would attack Iran before President Obama took office in January 2009.
  • On Meet the Pressin 2012, Netanyahu asserted that “They are very close, they are six months away from being about 90 percent of having the enriched uranium for an atom bomb.”
  • Barack Obama in March 2013, “Right now, we think that it would take over a year or so for Iran to actually develop a nuclear weapon.”

For argument’s sake – let’s say that we go through with a preemptive attack Iran in an effort to cripple their nuclear program. How long would that delay their nuclear ambitions? A few years? Then what? Would we occupy Iran in perpetuity so as to ensure that their nuclear capabilities do not come to fruition?

We simply cannot go around the world assassinating scientists and occupying nations forever.

Bipartisan Corporatism: Free Trade Edition

The slaughter that was the 2014 election leaves us once again with divided government. Come January, President Obama will have an entirely Republican-controlled congress for the remainder of his presidency. With Harry Reid no longer able to serve as Obama’s pocket-veto in the senate, we will get a chance to see what our elected leaders agree upon. Unfortunately, bipartisanship often means screwing over Joe Public.  You know, compromise.

Leaders of TPP members

A leaked draft of the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership (TPP) emerged last winter.  This along with the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – dual trade agreements, details of which were fucking putrid (more on that shortly). Speed of respective negotiations given, deals could have simply been legally fast-tracked with simple up/down votes, and one or both could be signed into law at any moment. And that would have been that.

TTIP protest, London, 6Jul14
TTIP protest, London, 6Jul14

Emails were sent and petitions signed. Both TPP & TTIP needed to be debated at length in congress. Our representatives would have to go on record supporting these twin travesties, and the public would have a chance to see the gory details. Instead, silence. Word on the streets (…) at the time was that there would be no debate, and a finalized deal(s) would be fast-tracked and announced over the holidays (possibly in a Friday afternoon news-dump), attracting as little attention as possible.

Reagan_BoraxoNow when I was in school, we were taught about the tariff system, which we had for over two-hundred years. Apparently, at some point the very reasonable people decided that since globalization was kicking in, and workers in places like Mexico and Bangladesh could be paid in pennies, all of the multinational corporations would pack up and move American jobs abroad.

clintonHence, trade agreements. We will remove the tariffs, and they agree to improve working conditions, especially pay. This is meant to level the playing field, and unleash the economy! Unfortunately, these standards are rarely, if ever, enforced. Thus, trade agreements in practice result in American jobs being outsourced to the countries with whom we make these pacts. NAFTA, for example.

mcconnellWith the midterms past and holidays fast-approaching, Obama and his counterparts in congress – namely Mitch McConnell and John Boehner – are being asked on where they find common ground. Trade agreements are at the top of the list (with corporate tax cuts a close second, unfortunately).

Honestly, these dual debacles seem like some sort of crazy conspiracy crack-pottery. And as a caveat, still being negotiated and are therefore unfinalized. So what are the TPP & TTIP, and why are both political parties licking at their chops to push it through?

The TPP is a trade agreement being negotiated between the United States, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Australia, Chile, Peru, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand, & Singapore (possibly China, India and/or Bangladesh). And TTIP between the US and the EU. The most critical aspect is the Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism. This would establish an international court (appointed by corporations, not voters) which would have the jurisdiction to overrule laws passed in the nation-state signees.

TPP members

Far reaching in scope – from internet, financial, environmental, pharmaceutical, & agricultural regulations, to copyrights, intellectual property and patents.

Secretary Kerry at TPP negotiations, 8Oct13

You want to pass banking and financial market regulations to try and prevent another recession? Sorry. Want to ban fracking in your town or state? Too bad. Want to ban certain pesticides or GMOs from your food? Nope. Want patent reform so poor folks in third world countries can gain affordable access to pharmaceuticals and medical devices? Uh-uh. Want illegal downloading settlements to be set at retail price per song/movie? Well yes, you can have that.Download_link

You see, if a corporation can prove that your law hurts their bottom line, they can have your law overturned in an international court. So long, sovereignty.

Trade ministers of TPP members

In a vacuum, the TPP seems completely & utterly insane. How can it be justified? It can’t, which is why congress refuses to debate it.

Why are both parties allowing it to advance, largely unnoticed? And why are Republicans, who whine incessantly about the tyrannical dictator that is Obama, willing to simply hand him the keys without question (fast-track) on an issue as important as trade?

To partisans, there is a vast gulf between Democrats and Republicans. While this is true in many ways, they have one very important thing in common –  they all have to get (re)elected, which costs a shit-ton of money. This thanks to a string of disastrous Supreme Court decisions that have torn campaign finance regulation asunder. scotusRespective party leaderships instruct our representatives to literally spend the vast majority of their time begging wealthy people for money. They have little choice. Their political careers are based upon their ability to solicit large sums of money, so not only do they only hear the perspective of the wealthy, but they owe them for the continued existence of their careers. Their real job is fundraising, not governing.  bribePoliticians actually brag about how much legal bribery they can accrue, and the media cheers them on. Of course the media does, most of it go straight into the pockets of the corporate media conglomerates for all of those shitty ads. And that’s why they won’t tell you about shitty trade agreements, let alone the whys and hows of our broken political system – or the steps we can take to fix it.

Sensing a pattern here?

Vox