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Guest Commentary (3871)

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.

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.

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.

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.

Thursday, 20 November 2014 06:29

Ferguson and the "Us vs. Them" Illusion

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBrownDontShoot(Photo: Jamelle Bouie)As the grand jury’s decision on whether nor not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson loomed, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon told a TV reporter “he’s preparing for peace and war.”

What the governor did, in the tense uncertainty preceding the decision, was pre-declare a state of emergency and activate the Missouri National Guard to help contain the possibility of violent, anti-police protests. He also appointed 16 people, including several of the protesters, to a newly created “Ferguson Commission” to recommend solutions to the racial problems plaguing that community, which the killing of Michael Brown last August made unavoidably apparent.

Meanwhile, gun sales at local shops are through the roof and the local Klan is stirring, distributing fliers warning protesters that they’ve awakened a sleeping giant.

America, America . . .

Before we proceed further, let’s stir in a little Einstein: “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”

That level of thinking — the political, governmental and media consensus of who we are — is blind and deaf to history and locked into us-vs.-them thinking. Security, whether domestic or international, is a game played against presumed and, often enough, imagined enemies. Thus, prior to the governor’s decision to call out the Guard, the FBI had issued an intelligence bulletin warning local officials that “the announcement of the grand jury’s decision … will likely be exploited by some individuals to justify threats and attacks against law enforcement and critical infrastructure,” according to the Washington Post.

2014.11.19.Keystone.BFUS Capitol Police officers dragged out five protesters, including Greg Grey Cloud of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe as he bellowed a tribal song. (Photo: Frank Thorp for Red Power Media via Facebook)

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch.

Anyone following the Keystone XL pipeline vote in the Senate yesterday heard what appeared to be chanting or singing in the background when the final tally of 41-59 was announced, signaling that approval of the pipeline had failed to clear the bar of 60 votes and that congressional approval of the pipeline was delayed for the time being.

That sound was coming from Native Americans in the gallery, singing a traditional tribal tune. Five of them were removed from the gallery and arrested.

According to Red Power Media, one of the protesters was Greg Grey Cloud of the Rosebud Sioux tribe.

11.19.Swaggart.BFPastor Donnie Swaggart. (Screen grab via Tweety Bell / YouTube)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

It may not seem possible, but Jimmy Swaggart's son Donnie is making his father look pretty darned good. In the late 1980s, the Reverend Jimmy Swaggart, one of the most watched and wealthiest televangelists of his era, was involved in one of the Religious Right's most memorable and salacious sex scandals; he was caught with a prostitute in a hotel room located along New Orleans' notoriously sleazy Airport Highway. His tearful apology has become a YouTube classic. Some twenty-seven years later, Pastor Donnie Swaggart is raving about gays and lesbians wanting to behead Christians. Some one needs to find this guy a prostitute!

On the Houston, Texas television talk show "Frances and Friends," Donnie Swaggart, Jimmy and his wife Francis' only son, hosted a panel discussion "dedicated to discussing the controversy that had erupted in Houston, Texas, after the mayor's office subpoenaed sermons and other materials from a handful of pastors as part of a lawsuit anti-gay activists had filed in an effort to overturn a local antidiscrimination ordinance," People For the American Way's Right Wing Watch recently reported.

Donnie Swaggart told the audience that "LGBT activists are like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in that they want to destroy Christianity and behead its practitioners," Raw Story recently reported. "They want the Bible gone. And I'm going to make a statement: These people that are trying to do this in Houston, the only difference between them and ISIS, those thugs in Iraq, is those here cannot chop our heads off. That's the only difference. The heart is the same. The heart is the same. If they could silence us that way to intimidate others, that's exactly what they would do."

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