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Wednesday, 26 November 2014 11:32

Racism: It's the Law

2014.11.26.Ferguson.BFFerguson solidarity protest in Washington DC. (Photo: Neil Cooler / Flickr)

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Smoke and fire, sirens blaring, horns honking, a sudden hail of bullets. This is what passes for the American dialogue on race and justice.

It’s hidden until it explodes.

“By 10 p.m.,” the Wall Street Journal informed us, “a St. Louis County Police squad car burned just down the street from the Ferguson Police Department, with spare ammunition ‘cooking off’ or exploding in the car.”

Those who want to shake their heads in disgust can do so. American institutional racism conceals itself so neatly from those who prefer not to see it and, of course, aren’t victimized by it. And then every so often something sets off the public trigger — an 18-year-old young man is shot and killed by a police officer, for instance — and the reality TV that is our mainstream news brings us the angry, “violent” response, live. And it’s always one side against another; us vs. them. It’s always war.

2014.11.26.Berkowitz.BFIn mid-November, the American Family Association (AFA) announced that PetSmart would be a target of a one-month AFA boycott for keeping the "Christ" out of "Christmas." (Screen grab via the American Family Association's website)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The "War on Christmas" is becoming as American as police shootings of unarmed Black men, drones striking weddings in Afghanistan and the revolving door at the Defense Department. While Fox News' Bill O'Reilly and the American Family Association may be some of the 21st century's chief promulgators of the "War on Christmas," interestingly enough, it was the far-right John Birch Society that followed in the footsteps of Henry Ford, who, Daniel Denvir wrote in Politico last year, "was an avid proponent of the idea that someone - or more precisely, some group - was waging a war on Christmas."

According to Wikipedia:

"In 1959, they released a pamphlet called 'There Goes Christmas,' in which they claimed that there was a new communist plot to 'take the Christ out of Christmas' by replacing Christmas decorations with United Nations iconography. The Society claimed this was part of a larger push to stamp out religion altogether and cede US sovereignty to the UN. They urged their members to boycott any stores with 'inappropriate decorations.'"

While the good folks at Fox News have led "War on Christmas" hectoring over the past ten years or so, it is the American Family Association, with its annual "Naughty and Nice" list, that is doing some of the heaviest lifting and mobilizing its troops for the battlefield.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

amyththanksPuncturing the myth of Thanksgiving (Photo: Mr. Tin DC)

Many progressives face a quandary of mixed emotions on Thanksgiving. Although the day mythologizes a peaceful banquet celebrated by Native Americans and pilgrims together, whatever fellowship there might have been was short lived. The European decimation of the indigenous population was soon to begin, as conquering settlers - primarily from Britain (after all, the Eastern seaboard eventually became an English colony) - claimed land on the basis of "the doctrine of discovery." 

Native Americans were deemed disposable people and were nearly annihilated.

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Thanksgiving then, as a national holiday (if one sets aside its gross commercialization and association with corporate professional and exploitative college football), is a way of “turkey-washing” the theft of the vast expanse of land that became the current United States from the indigenous population that was here first. If property rights are enshrined in US law to the extent that you can kill someone for trespassing, then the deadly violation of the ownership of land by Native Americans was, on the basis of that doctrine, a genocidal crime.

2014.11.26.Steingraber.BFAnti-fracking activist Sandra Steingraber speaks at a gathering in Binghamton, New York to tell Gov. Cuomo that any plan to frack the Southern Tier, or any other region in New York, will be met with resistance. (Screen grab via Colleen Boland / YouTube)STEFANIE SPEAR OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

On Nov. 26 at 12:01 a.m., Sandra Steingraber and Colleen Boland were released from jail after serving eight days of a 15-day sentence for trespassing at the gates of Crestwood Midstream on the banks of Seneca Lake. They were immediately greeted by a crowd of supporters outside the Schuyler County Jail in Watkins Glen. Below are transcripts of their speeches.

Steingraber and Boland are among the first wave arrests as part of a sustained, ongoing, non-violent civil disobedience campaign against the storage of fracked gas along the shores of Seneca Lake, a source of drinking water for 100,000 people. There have been 73 arrests so far. Calling themselves “We Are Seneca Lake,” those risking arrest—and their supporters—wear blue during blockades. Donations to the jail fund are greatly appreciated and make a perfect holiday gift.

Sandra Steingraber:

Hi, everybody! I missed you all. And I missed this beautiful world. I’m glad to be back. And I’m glad to be wearing blue again, instead of orange.

But I’m also glad to have spent this past week in the 24/7 company of my co-defendant and Seneca Lake co-defender, Colleen Boland. Thanks to the kindness of our booking officer, Colleen and I were placed in adjacent cells.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aunlearnracism(Photo: Light Brigading)

The unfolding of daily events – both mundane and sensational - takes place within a larger context of history. Such, of course, is the case with the abominable killing of Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.

The fact that Wilson would not be indicted was foreshadowed when Missouri Governor Jay Nixon (D) did not replace St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch to present the case to the grand jury. McCullough has been accused by critics of being unrelentingly pro-police and evidencing prosecutorial excess against Blacks.

Combat the epidemic of misinformation that plagues the corporate media! Make a tax-deductible donation to Truthout and BuzzFlash today.

McCulloch did nothing to allay these concerns in a contemptuous, disdainful statement prior to announcing the grand jury decision not to indict Wilson. The Monday night - curiously prime time – McCulloch's announcement was more of a personal indictment of anyone who has argued on behalf of justice for Michael Brown - and anyone who has condemned police targeting of Black people (particularly males in modern urban plantation communities). It was a blend of derisive rhetoric - beginning, however, with a blatantly insincere expression of condolence to Michael Brown's family - blended together with a laundry list of self-serving legal mumbo jumbo.

The sleight of hand of a prosecutor in the vast majority of grand jury findings is that the grand jury is a completely independent decision-making body, with McCulloch in this case just serving as a "presenter of fact" and witnesses. However, as the saying goes (and as Philip Bump wrote in the Washington Post this morning), "grand juries would return an indictment against a ham sandwich." 

BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPeacefulProtest(Photo: Bartosz Brzezinski)Police officers should approach Ferguson protestors with caution and fully respect their constitutional rights. That is the clear message from recent court awards and settlements against police force abuses against demonstrators.

New York City just paid out $17.9 million to more than 1800 protestors arrested during the 2004 Republican National Convention, according to CNN.

An Iraq War veteran injured by police during Occupy protest in Oakland has been awarded $4.5 million after being struck in the head by a beanbag fired by police.

UC Davis paid out $1 million to 21 demonstrators who were pepper sprayed during Occupy protests November 2011. This was $30,000 per demonstrator and $250,000 in attorney fees. The University apologized and the officer who pepper sprayed the protestors was fired.

Oakland paid $1.1 million to members of the Occupy movement for police misconduct during the protests.

Kelly HayesChicago police block a Ferguson solidarity march on November 2, 2014. (Photo: Kelly Hayes)AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Here’s a story for you. My uncle-in-law is a good man. He’s 73, a twice decorated Vietnam veteran, and lives with his wife in New Mexico, a few miles south of the Colorado border. She suffers from an autoimmune condition so, every month, he drives her 150 miles south, to Albuquerque, where she receives the infusion that keeps her alive. This past week, due to some bureaucracy and miscommunication, he found himself making that drive on a license that had been suspended. And, as luck would have it, he was pulled over for driving a few miles an hour under the speed limit. The officer ran his license, saw that it had been suspended, and listened to my uncle explain that he was simply trying to take his wife to the hospital for lifesaving treatment. At that point, the officer had a choice. She could have written my uncle a warning. She could have written him a ticket. She could have let him drive off with nothing more than a friendly admonition.

She chose to put him in a double pair of handcuffs, place him in back of her police car, and haul him off to the county jail, leaving my aunt to make her own way to Albuquerque. I showed up an hour later and, after I posted his bail, they made him sit in a concrete cell for another two hours for reasons that were never actually divulged.

Here’s another story, albeit less of a personal one. The city council of Santa Fe, NM, where I live, recently voted to decriminalize the possession of marijuana. This was followed by a non-binding referendum, in support of decriminalization, that overwhelmingly passed. Now here’s the funny thing: when police officers in Santa Fe stop someone who turns out to be in possession of marijuana, they are often choosing to file charges under the old state law, which comes with a heftier penalty. As the city police department has yet to issue any directive on the new law to its officers, it falls to the discretion of the arresting office, and it is, ultimately, his choice which law to charge the offender under.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aboehnerunemploy(Photo: Gory M. Grenier)

 

BuzzFlash at Truthout has often asserted that without systemic changed to the economic system, the notion that a lowering unemployment rate means workers are living better is highly flawed. That is because corporations and other employers are reducing the pay and benefits to hourly workers through a variety of means. These include lowering wages, decreasing or eliminating raises, turning full-time jobs into two part-time jobs to avoid providing benefits, creating temporary jobs to replace more expensive permanent employees, converting employee hires into consultant relationships (to eliminate benefits and payroll taxes for the companies), charging workers for items such as uniforms and instituting "work irregular hours at the will of the company" policies, among other employee exploitation tactics.

Combat the epidemic of misinformation that plagues the corporate media! Make a tax-deductible donation to Truthout and BuzzFlash today.

On Sunday, November 23, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune profiled a college-educated single mother of two who is representative of the new wave of underemployed workers who require government assistance just to survive:

Finding a job in Southwest Florida that pays well enough to support two children as a single mother has been a challenge for Ceci Linton.

The $20-an-hour, part-time position doing substance abuse prevention education in Manatee County schools came close, but Linton was laid off earlier this year. Her new job pays substantially less — $14.50 an hour — and it’s also part time.

Most of Linton’s paycheck from her new position in retail sales goes toward rent. The irregular hours add to her child care costs, and she relies on the government to help with food and health care expenses.

2014.11.24.Brach.BFAn anti-fracking demonstration in New York City organized by CREDO Action and New Yorkers Against Fracking. (Photo: Adam Welz for CREDO Action / Flickr)

WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

For the first time since high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as non-conventional fracking, was developed, more Americans oppose it than support it.

According to a national survey conducted by the independent non-partisan Pew Research Center, 47 percent of Americans oppose fracking, while 41 percent support it. This is a 7 percent decline in support from March 2013, and a 9 percent increase in opposition.

The poll also reveals those who support fracking tend to be conservative men over 50 years old with only a high school education, and living in the South. However, support for fracking has decreased in all categories, while opposition has increased.

2014.11.24.Buchheit.BFPharmaceutical companies reap billions of dollars in subsidies for research and development, but they've successfully lobbied Congress to keep Medicare from bargaining for lower drug prices. (Photo: Gatis Gribusts / Flickr)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

There are so many to choose from. Every one of these selections is an act of corporate treachery that takes billions of dollars from the American people.


1. Selling Medication for Up to 100 Times More Than It's Worth

Pharmaceutical companies reap billions of dollars in subsidies for research and development, but they've successfully lobbied Congress to keep Medicare from bargaining for lower drug prices. An extreme example is Gilead Sciences, the manufacturer of the drug Sovaldi, which charges about $10 a pill to its customers in Egypt, then comes home to charge $1,000 a pill to its American customers. Other outrageous examples are noted by Ralph Nader.

As a further insult, Americans are cheated when corporations pay off generic drug manufacturers to delay entry of their products into the market, thereby forcing consumers to pay the highest prices for medicine.

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