Truthout Stories http://truth-out.org Thu, 27 Nov 2014 17:00:39 -0500 en-gb The Second Term That Movements Build http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/27698-the-second-term-that-movements-build http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/27698-the-second-term-that-movements-build

In the wake of the mid-term elections earlier this month, it might have seemed that there wasn't much hope to hold onto for progressives, what with climate deniers and tea party fundamentalists rising to some of the highest offices in the land. What we've seen since, though, has been a string of executive decisions that might be cautiously described as hopeful.

In an official White House statement released early last week, President Obama expressed his support for net neutrality, a framing in itself pushed for by advocates on the issue.

"We cannot allow Internet service providers to restrict the best access or to pick winners and losers in the online marketplace for services and ideas," he said. "That is why today, I am asking the Federal Communications Commission to answer the call of almost four million public comments, and implement the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality."

Craig Aaron, president of the long-running net neutrality campaign group Free Press, told the New York Times, "It was the kind of clear, bold statement we had been waiting for" since 2008.

Then there's Obama's newly emboldened statements on immigration, which could create a pathway to citizenship for an estimated five million undocumented Americans. The move would extend amnesty to the parents of those granted legal status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. In the lead-up to the election, organizers with United We Dream interrupted a series of high-profile Democratic campaign events, calling on Obama and other Democrats, including presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, to "put families over politics."

The White House had promised in June that it would take similar action before the end of the summer, only to announce later that it would postpone any decisions on immigration reform until after the election to benefit Democrats in red and purple states facing tough contests with Republicans. Immigrant rights groups also held a wave of action this summer calling for administrative relief from detention and deportation, and were instrumental in the passage of DACA and the DREAM Act for tuition equity in several states nationwide.

Environmentalists saw positive signs, too, as Obama pledged to veto any Congressional legislation that would force a decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, superseding federal review requirements. The biggest news for the climate movement, however, is that China and the United States — the world's first and second largest polluters, respectively — have been brokering an until-now "secret" deal to cap both countries' emissions post-2020. Secretary of State John Kerry took the pact public on Tuesday in an op-ed for the New York Times, writing, "Two countries regarded for 20 years as the leaders of opposing camps in climate negotiations have come together to find common ground, determined to make lasting progress on an unprecedented global challenge." Both of these revelations come after increasingly militant and popular escalation in the climate movement, including September's 400,000-person People's Climate March, the growing on and off-campus fossil fuel divestment movement, as well as ongoing efforts to block the expansion of fossil fuel extraction and transportation infrastructure.

Of course, none of these announcements are guaranteed to translate into actual policy shifts. For all of the above, details on enforcement are vague at best. Even the statements themselves are something of a mixed bag: The immigration reform package could include increased funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, and the climate deal is non-binding. Naomi Klein commented that free trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership could even trump legislation by "[bestowing] corporations with outrageous powers to challenge national policies at international tribunals," which could prove a threat to climate action and net neutrality alike. Democratic strategists are already plotting how they can leverage support for the Keystone pipeline to win over moderate Democrats in Mary Landrieu's upcoming senatorial run-off election in Louisiana. Progressives are no strangers to false assurances; as United We Dream managing director Cristina Jimenez told CNN, "Details matter and promises have been made before."

Responding to his new-found willingness to take on the GOP, pundits have commented that Obama is attempting to carve out a progressive legacy in the latter half of his second term. This may be true, but this week's announcements are also evidence of the work grassroots organizers have been doing to put pressure on the White House since well before the 2008 election. In other words, like other presidents, any progressive legacy Obama manages to build between now and 2016 will be a product of the movements that challenged him most.

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Opinion Thu, 27 Nov 2014 11:29:24 -0500
"Coercive Diplomacy" and the Failure of the Nuclear Negotiations http://truth-out.org/news/item/27697-coercive-diplomacy-and-the-failure-of-the-nuclear-negotiations http://truth-out.org/news/item/27697-coercive-diplomacy-and-the-failure-of-the-nuclear-negotiations

After more than a year of negotiations between the United States and Iran, the two sides have failed to reach an agreement by the agreed deadline in July. They have agreed to continue negotiating, but the failure to meet the deadline was clearly not caused by the lack of time.

To understand why the talks have remained deadlocked, it is necessary to review the Obama administration's stance on diplomacy with Iran in the context of the long US history of favouring "coercive diplomacy" over traditional negotiations in managing conflicts with adversaries.

Reliance on coercive diplomacy is deeply imbedded in the strategic culture of US national security institutions. It has evolved over decades of US military and economic dominance in international politics, which has allowed the United States to avoid genuine diplomacy repeatedly.

Based on that military supremacy, the United States avoided negotiations with its communist adversaries up to the early 1970s, when Henry Kissinger courted China and launched his détente policy with the Soviet Union. But that brief period of serious negotiating came in the wake of political pressures for reducing US military spending and foreign military presence during the long and exhausting US war in Vietnam. It soon gave way to renewed reliance on coercive diplomacy during the Reagan administration.

The concept of coercive diplomacy emerged from the belief that the United States could use the threat of force to leverage favourable outcomes in international conflicts, as the United States assumed – wrongly, as we now know - that the threat of force by the John F. Kennedy had forced Khrushchev to back down in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

But the practice of coercive diplomacy came to include the use of trade and technology denial for coercive purposes as well, and Iran was one of the first applications of the concept. The Reagan administration used its diplomatic clout with France and Germany to choke off all technical cooperation with Iran's nuclear programme in 1983, even though it acknowledged it had no reason to suspect that Iran was pursuing nuclear weapons. A few years later, the George H. W. Bush administration banned exports of peaceful nuclear technology to Iran and pressured its allies to do the same. The technology denial policy, aimed at strangling the Iranian nuclear programme, was a pure expression of the concept of "coercive diplomacy."

The George W. Bush administration's accusation that Iran was using its nuclear programme as a cover for development of nuclear weapons was aimed at preparing the political ground for regime change by force, if necessary. But in 2005, it became part of a strategy for coercive diplomacy to force Iran to stop enrichment. US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice pressured Britain, France and Germany to eschew genuine negotiations with Iran and use the threat of economic sanctions to force an end to Iranian enrichment. The Bush administration would later accuse Iran of having a covert nuclear weapons programme, based on intelligence documents that I have shown in my book "Manufactured Crisis" to be fabrications, but when it first used coercive diplomacy to force an end to Iran's nuclear programme in the 1980s the Reagan administration did not claim that Iran had done anything to indicate an interest in nuclear weapons.

The Obama years

Ironically, although the Obama administration appeared to be committed to traditional diplomacy with Iran on the surface, his administration has relied even more heavily on coercive diplomacy against Iran than its predecessor.

Obama sent an unpublicised message to supreme leader Khamenei in May 2009, offering to conduct talks with Iran on a range of issues "without preconditions," Gary Samore, a former Obama official, admitted last year. But within weeks of his inauguration, Obama gave his approval to a plan for cyber war against Iran's nuclear programme in order to gain more leverage.

Iranian Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei did not know about the cyber war decision. He did know, however, that Obama was planning to use new sanctions to compel Iran to accept these policy changes, which that included the unfreezing of assets and the lifting of some sanctions.

When Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad asked in the spring of 2009 for the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) assistance in purchasing nuclear fuel for its Tehran Research Reactor, the Obama administration blocked Iran's recourse to the market, hoping to use Iran's need for fuel for the TRR to put additional pressure on Iran. Samore drafted a proposal under which Iran would have to send as much 75 to 80 percent of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium to Russia to be turned into fuel assemblies for the reactor, giving the US a stronger position in future negotiations.

The Washington Post reported on 22 October 2009, that US officials said the proposed uranium swap "would be only the first step in a difficult process to persuade Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment activities and that suspension remains the primary goal."

The administration even used its Nuclear Policy Review (NPR) in the spring of 2010 as a heavy-handed means of coercing Iran. The new nuclear policy suggested that Iran was one of the few exceptions to a policy of no first use of nuclear weapons in case of a conventional attack "against the US or its allies or partners."

Obama explicitly linked the new policy to the administration's broader campaign of coercive diplomacy with Iran, saying: "[W]e want to send a very strong message both through sanctions, through the articulation of the Nuclear Posture Review... that the international community is serious about Iran facing consequences if it doesn't change its behaviour."

The administration's main hope for coercing Iran, however, was the imposition of the sanctions against Iran's oil and banking sectors that took effect in mid-2012. In May 2012, a senior US official told the New York Times that those sanctions - and especially the moves by EU member states to cut imports of Iranian oil - would "increase the leverage" on the negotiations that had begun with Iran that spring.

After Hassan Rouhani was elected President of Iran in 2013, with a commitment to a negotiated solution to the issue of the nuclear programme and sanctions relief, the Obama administration assumed that its coercive diplomacy - especially in the form of sanctions - had forced Iran to negotiate. Although the administration had now given up the hope of ending Iran's enrichment completely, the administration lost no time in making it clear that the US objective was the "dismantling" of most of the Iranian enrichment capacity.

Kerry testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on 11 December 2013, a little more than two weeks after the Joint Plan of Action had been announced, that the United States had imposed sanctions on Iran, "because we knew that it would hopefully help Iran dismantle its nuclear programme. That was the whole point of the [sanctions] regime."

In April 2014, Kerry announced that the administration would require Iran's agreement to reduce its enrichment capability so that it would take at least six to twelve months to achieve a "breakout" capacity – i.e., enough low enriched uranium for one bomb's worth of weapon's grade enriched uranium. Robert Einhorn, former proliferation official in the Obama administration's State Department, explained in an article published 9 May, that anything more than "a few thousand" centrifuges would give Iran "an unacceptably rapid breakout capability."

Iran had already declared that dismantling its nuclear infrastructure was a "red line" in the talks, but that it would take measures that would assure that its low-enriched uranium could not be enriched to weapons grade level. Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif revealed to the New York Times on 14 July that Iran had proposal to retain 9,400 "Separative Work Units (SWU), which would represent less than half the enrichment capacity installed in its two enrichment facilities.

An unidentified senior US official responded to the Iranian proposal by implying the right to demand that Iran submit to the will of the coalition arrayed against it. "[T]his is not a negotiation between two equal parties," the official said. "This is the international community assessing whether Iran can come in line with its numerous non-proliferation obligations, to which it has been in violation for years."

Later, Iran agreed to draw down its stockpile of low-enrichment uranium by shipping it to Russia to be converted into fuel assemblies for its nuclear reactor at Bushehr. That would have the same effect in increasing the "breakout" timeline announced by Kerry as the deep centrifuge reduction the US was demanding. But by then, the United States had escalated its demands on Iran, saying that it would have to increase that mythical measure of risk to at least a year.

US negotiators continued to demand that Iran accept a dramatic cut in existing operational enrichment capacity to as few as 5000 centrifuges. Meanwhile, the US delegation was making it clear that the P5+1 would not provide "extensive" relief from sanctions until late in the implementation of the agreement, keeping the "architecture of sanctions" in place as leverage on Iran.

The whole US posture in the talks has thus reflected the perspective of a dominant power accustomed to employing coercive diplomacy, with sanctions replacing military force as the source of presumed coercive power. Iran's refusal to play its assigned role in the relationship between superpower and lesser state challenges Washington's strategic assumptions. Now Obama must weigh the appeal of coercive diplomacy to the US national security state against his own strong desire for an agreement.

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News Thu, 27 Nov 2014 11:23:40 -0500
How ACA Fuels Corporatization of American Health Care http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/27696-how-aca-fuels-corporatization-of-american-health-care http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/27696-how-aca-fuels-corporatization-of-american-health-care

A new Harvard study has found that Americans' trust in the medical profession has dropped dramatically in recent years and lags behind that in many other wealthy countries. At the same time, doctors are becoming increasingly unhappy with our profession. In his new memoir, " Doctored," Dr. Sandeep Jauhar eloquently explains why: More and more doctors are coming to view our profession as just another job.

We now have a situation where patients are losing confidence in their doctors, while doctors are losing confidence in our ability to do the right thing for our patients. We have a health care system becoming more hostile to doctors and patients and more friendly to health care corporations.

These trends are collateral damage caused by another trend: our increasingly corporatized, commodified and commercialized U.S. health care "industry" that is being put into hyper drive by the Affordable Care Act. The ACA is accelerating an ongoing wave of hospital consolidations and acquisition of doctors' practices by large corporations, such as Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems and MaineHealth.

As we continue down this road, doctors see our clinical autonomy disappearing as more and more of us become corporate employees subject to pressure to meet corporate financial goals that often differ from what is best for our patients. Patients sense that pressure as they are rushed through exams and are subject to more tests and procedures, some of them of questionable clinical value. They can almost hear the cash registers ringing as they move through their doctors' offices, as more wealth is transferred from patients to those selling health care goods and services.

Why is American medicine, once the crown jewel of American professionalism and a proud and respected calling, becoming just another commercial enterprise? In his 2010 book " Hijacked," Dr. John Geyman, chairman emeritus of the department of family practice at the University of Washington, explains how during the year-long Congressional debate leading up to enactment of the ACA, the interests of the public, including doctors and patients, were subverted to those of large health care corporations.

The highjacking of health care reform is paying off handsomely. Robert Pear of the New York Times recently described how the federal government and the commercial health insurance industry have morphed into one big fan club for the ACA. He quotes the libertarian Cato Institute's Michael Cannon explaining that since the ACA's enactment, "Insurers and the government have developed a symbiotic relationship, nurtured by tens of billions of dollars that flow from the federal Treasury to insurers each year."

Pear goes on to report that, "Since Mr. Obama signed the law, share prices for four of the major insurance companies — Aetna, Cigna, Humana and UnitedHealth — have more than doubled, while the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index has increased about 70 percent."

Pharmaceutical companies also have done very well. The ACA contains no authority for the government to negotiate pharmaceutical prices but continues the federal prohibition on the importation by U.S. residents of lower priced prescription drugs from many foreign countries.

This situation won't change anytime soon. Congress is gridlocked. What is widely recognized as a drafting error in the ACA — which, in saner times, could have been fixed quickly without attracting much attention — is now headed to the Supreme Court.

Of course, health care is just one of many examples in which the welfare of corporations has been put ahead of the interests of the public, but it may be the poster child. Health care is now more than a sixth of our economy, and human lives and dollars are at stake.

Corporate stranglehold of our public policy traces back to the increasingly corrupt way our political campaigns are financed. The recent midterm elections were a stark reminder of that, setting record levels for corporate spending, even on local races, and saturating voters with negative, intrusive and often obnoxious messages.

What's at stake is the future of health care and many other issues that will determine what kind of a country our children will live in. That future depends on how active and informed the public is willing to become in electing public officials who place the welfare of their constituents ahead of the wishes of their corporate contributors.

The results of the recent elections are not encouraging. But what's becoming clearer is that our struggle is not between Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, or occupiers and tea partiers. It is between real American people and corporations.

I, for one, intend to continue pointing that out. That's where our attention should be focused.

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Opinion Thu, 27 Nov 2014 11:12:11 -0500
#Not1More Means Not One More http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/27695-not1more-means-not-one-more http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/27695-not1more-means-not-one-more

I watched the President's announcement in a packed room, filled with people who have been putting their bodies on the line to fight for expanded deportation relief. While many advocates in D.C. are claiming victory, no one in that room was celebrating. Even the eyes of those who will likely qualify for relief were brimming with tears, unable to set aside the many who will be left out.

Trying to find the magic words that will convince Americans to accept immigrants and support reform, millions of dollars have been invested in communications consultants who have complicated our message so fully that today, many are thanking the President for providing relief to less than 40% of our community and once again using the border as a bargaining chip.

Sometimes we've been told to be tough on crime, reflect a nation of laws, or call ourselves New Americans despite generational ties and, for many, indigenous claims to the continent. The newest line we are supposed to swallow is that the President is prioritizing deportations of "felons, not families."

Meanwhile the Right-wing has boiled their message down to the phrase, "What part of illegal don't you understand?" It ignores the illegality of racial profiling, unconstitutionality of ICE holds, the denial of indigenous sovereignty along the U.S.-Mexico border, and the violations of civil and human rights in the name of enforcement but it makes for a simple argument that has carried the debate so far.

But over the course of the last year, the migrant rights movement has found strength and momentum around its own simple phrase, "Not one more." We first painted it on a banner raised as people shut down Sheriff Arpaio's jail in Arizona the first day that the racial profiling law, SB1070, was to go into effect back in 2010. It meant not one more raid, not one more victim of Arpaio's sweeps, not one more racist law.

In 2014, "not one more" means "not one more."

Some people have bristled at the idea. In an attempt to get reform in Congress, a compromise approach shakes at the thought that we would defend our entire community or hold the position that deportations are not bargaining chips, they are wrong, immoral, and should be stopped altogether. Not one more.

It is an end point, a long-term goal that we will build toward through the incremental steps of stopping the removal of individuals who have lost fear and decided to fight for the right to remain and incremental steps of passing local and national policies that dismantle the deportation machine and protect our families. But it is the goal. There's no one we wish to see thrown under the bus or left behind. We are fighting for nothing less than the liberation of our people, for the decriminalization of immigrant lives.

It's time we shift from an assimilationist approach that puts on caps and gowns and sets forward our valedictorians as the face of immigration. While the strategy has earned the acceptance of immigrant youth, it has set an unreal standard of sainthood for us and has led to us being divided between good and bad immigrants, the deserving and undeserving, felons and families. If one person is a dreamer, does that mean that someone else is a nightmare?

Our organizing is based in the idea that when you organize from below, defending the most vulnerable, you lift everyone else up with you. When the most stigmatized have their humanity recognized, everyone else's expands as well. That position has shifted and evolved over time but if one listens to the debate now, both the fearmongering from the Right and the rational discernment from the Democrats made evident in the President's announcement, immigrants with criminal convictions are clearly living on the chopping block.

Elected officials who give the fullest condemnation of the current deportation crisis still have an asterisk at the end of their speech that cuts "criminals" out from their compassion. And the anti-immigrants spend their time constantly asking "but what about criminals." The President's announcement last night made clear that he decided it was politically expedient to provide relief for some, while putting those with criminal records in ICE's crosshairs.

Cutting out people stigmatized as "criminal" from our circle of compassion might be politically convenient but it lacks both an understanding of the extent to which immigration itself has been criminalized and how historically unjust the criminal justice system is, especially for people of color.

Immigration has always been understood as a civil offense but since Clinton's Presidency, federal criminal prosecution of immigrants who have re-entered the country rose 2,800% accounting for more than half of federal prosecutions. With George W. Bush's executive order to end "catch and release" at the border in 2006 and the expansion of Operation Streamline courtrooms that convict people at the rate of seventy defendants per hour, the deportation machine has also become a conviction factory.

For those of us who either got past the border or entered through other ways, there's then the life of being targeted by biased policing that over-patrols the communities we call home. In my home state of Arizona, people of color were found to be 2 to 3 times more likely to be stopped by the police before SB1070 legalized racial profiling. After getting arrested, 92% of people in the US will plead guilty and up to 60% without a lawyer. In such a system, deportation becomes double jeopardy and a cruel and unusual additional punishment that doesn't make anyone safer but in fact does the opposite.

If we understand that the act of migrating has been criminalized and that people of color disproportionately end up with criminal convictions, we realize that path to citizenship starts by rejecting criminalization. There's no other way to arrive at legalization.

Before the rest of advocates adopted the objective of the #Not1More campaign and pivoted to the President, we were told that we were giving up on long-term change, "tone deaf to what was going on on Capitol Hill,"putting a historic victory in jeopardy. Now that the President himself proved those people wrong by acting on parts of our demands, there will once again be an effort to steer the movement back toward the pattern of blaming Republicans and investing solely in Congress.

But if #Not1More has shown us anything its that there are multiple paths toward winning rights and stopping suffering. Organizing to stop deportations isn't giving up hope on immigration reform or legislation in Congress. It empowers and allows people to be engaged in our own liberation. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals came in the shadow of the DREAM Act's failure but it was no less of a victory. Deferred Action for Parents is much much less than what the President could do and nowhere near what the people who have fought for it deserve. But we will never allow either to be undone and we will press forward at every level of government, starting from the bottom up.

#No1LeftBehind #FelonsAreFamilies

Este op-ed disponible en español aquí.

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Opinion Thu, 27 Nov 2014 11:05:01 -0500
Thanksgiving Day and the Powerful Play http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/27694-thanksgiving-day-and-the-powerful-play http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/27694-thanksgiving-day-and-the-powerful-play

Snowy sky(Photo: Lotus Carroll; Lost and Taken; Edited: JR/TO)

Two hours ago, as of this Wednesday night writing, the ground around my back porch was brown and bare and sere. Where only scant weeks ago there was deep color in the New Hampshire woods - an astonishing riot of maple red and oak orange and birch yellow, the likes of which I have never seen before and may never see again, because it was simply that extraordinary - there are now only the skeletal fingers of bare trees holding court over a graveyard of fallen leaves. A few studiously green pines stand the watch, as they always do, but in the main, it is the Autumnal end of things in this particular patch of this particular place.

And then, two hours ago, it began to snow.

Snowy sky(Photo: Lotus Carroll; Lost and Taken; Edited: JR/TO)

Two hours ago, as of this Wednesday night writing, the ground around my back porch was brown and bare and sere. Where only scant weeks ago there was deep color in the New Hampshire woods - an astonishing riot of maple red and oak orange and birch yellow, the likes of which I have never seen before and may never see again, because it was simply that extraordinary - there are now only the skeletal fingers of bare trees holding court over a graveyard of fallen leaves. A few studiously green pines stand the watch, as they always do, but in the main, it is the Autumnal end of things in this particular patch of this particular place.

And then, two hours ago, it began to snow. The East Coast, from the middle of Florida to the middle of Maine, is getting slapped with a good old-fashioned early-winter walloper that is going to perfectly and profoundly screw anyone looking to put the rubber to the road ahead of this Thanksgiving holiday. I feel for them, I really and sincerely do, but the branches of the cherry tree are graced with two inches of latticed snow, the forest beyond is a laden mystery of white, and all I can do is stare out the window and wonder at the exchange of one beautiful for another beautiful as the seasons change right before my eyes.

My 20-month-old daughter spent the morning banging around the house in her usual fashion, taking her shoes off and then demanding they be put back on immediately, all the while running under the floppy Hunter S. Thompson fishing hat that makes her look so much like her fly-fishing great-grandmother that my mother startles every time she sees her grandchild. My daughter categorically refuses to let this hat leave her head. She sleeps with it on, no joke. My genes are weird.

All of her wiggling stomping busybody frantic toddler mayhem stopped, like a needle jumping off a record, when she saw the snow pouring down outside. She pressed her nose to the cold windowpane of the porch door and stared, and stared, her breath fogging the reflection of her chin in the glass. She was born on April Fools Day, and was too young to appreciate her first winter - which might be for the best, as last winter was a stone bastard fully until late May - so this was her first true encompassing of what happens when the world turns white.

On Thanksgiving - weather permitting - we will bundle her up and strap her in and drive to Nelson, a couple of towns over, with a pot of buffalo chicken dip and a piping-hot pan of scalloped potatoes in the back of the car steaming up the windows and driving us mad with hunger from the smell of it all. We will be welcomed into the home of dear friends, warm ourselves by a roaring fire, swap tales of glory and madness and workaday muddling, we will lift a toast to the hosts, to family and friends, and to the glorious game of chance that brought us all together in that place. We are that lucky.

When we sit at table, there will be no place set for Pop, who has gone from us after Thanksgivings beyond memory. In Woburn, there will be no place set for my beloved friend and roommate and partner in crime, who passed last week. At tables in every city and town and village from one shore to the other, places will not be set for those who cannot sit and eat, or join in a laugh, or share a tale, or simply smile, because they are also gone from us. There will be a hole in many tables and many hearts on this Thanksgiving Day, and that is a truth of this life.

So.

Hold tight to who you have in this world, even if you're down deep in a ditch. I hope someone sets a place at table for you on Thanksgiving, but if not, remember that you're still here, and if you're here, it means matters can change for the better, because you're here. Hold tight to who you have, and tell those who are your heart you love them. Do not let the grass grow under the last conversation you had with one who is a part of who you are. I am here to tell you, from the well of my soul, that it is a savage, brutal shock to lose that chance forever.

We live in a world of shrinking margins, of narrowing visions, a world ruled and ruined by fools. This is the fact of our time, and no one is going to fix it today. Tomorrow, perhaps, but in the meantime, hold close what you hold most dear, and give thanks for the chance of that holding. If you truly appreciate what you have, no matter how mean or meager, you are doing it right. On this day of all days, remember where you came from, contemplate where you are, imagine where you can be, stand stock still a moment, and be thankful that you are here.

"That the powerful play goes on," Mr. Whitman reminds us, "and you may contribute a verse."

Contribute a verse. Because you can. Because you are here.

Happy Thanksgiving.

For Brian

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Opinion Thu, 27 Nov 2014 09:55:46 -0500
#Ferguson Thanksgiving: A Former Slave Proposed the Holiday 55 Years Before Lincoln. Why His Version Matters Today http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/27693-ferguson-thanksgiving-a-former-slave-proposed-the-holiday-55-years-before-lincoln-why-his-version-matters-today http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/27693-ferguson-thanksgiving-a-former-slave-proposed-the-holiday-55-years-before-lincoln-why-his-version-matters-today

Ferguson, Missouri. October, 2014.Ferguson, Missouri. October, 2014. (Photo: Sarah Jane Rhee)

This is a strange year, even an awful one, to celebrate Thanksgiving. A grand jury's refusal to indict Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson has crystallized ugly truths. Many Americans feel unsafe in their own neighborhoods, not despite law enforcement but because of it. In some places, the police act like an occupying force. If the law does not represent you but only governs you, you are a subject, not a citizen.

So what are the "blessings" that Americans should "gratefully acknowledge," as Abraham Lincoln put it in the 1863 proclamation creating the first national Thanksgiving? That you are one of the lucky first-class citizens who feel safe wherever you go and expect polite help from the police and other authorities? Or, if you aren't so lucky, that things aren't worse? That you're still walking around? Taking satisfaction in national blessings feels grotesque just now.

This November, I'm remembering a mostly forgotten American tradition that lies behind Thanksgiving's cheery feasting and mutual congratulation. In 1776, the Continental Congress announced "a day of humiliation, fasting, and prayer," a day of acknowledging "manifold sins and transgressions" and seeking "sincere repentance and amendment of life." Such fasting days were fixtures of the founders' civic culture. Prayer, repentance, and thanksgiving were woven together in the national holidays that George Washington and other early presidents announced.

Yes, remembering national wrongs and seeking "amendment of life" seem better now than just being grateful. But even that 1776 proclamation contains the seeds of today's troubles. It warned that the British were trying to reduce Americans to "ignominious bondage" with the help of "the savages of the wilderness, and our own domestics"—that is, slaves. The prayer and repentance of 1776 were ways of seeking God's help in building a white man's colony, an empire of liberty pitched on the backs of unfree labor and land cleared with violence.

Ferguson arises from conditions—black poverty, mutual racial distrust, a tradition of policing by and for white people—that are the direct legacy of Jim Crow. Segregation, in turn, was the direct legacy of the slavery that many of the founders practiced and prayed for help in defending. The same words from 1776 contain a spirit of searching reflection and a steadfast willingness to protect what later generations would learn to call white privilege.

In 1808, preaching in Philadelphia, a former slave named Absalom Jones urged a national day of thanksgiving 55 years ahead of Abraham Lincoln. Jones's date was not a harvest festival but January 1, the dead of winter. Why? January 1, 1808, was the day that Congress banned the import of slaves. (The Constitution protected the slave trade until 1808, a time-limited compromise that the founders made iron-clad by immunizing it from amendment.) On that day of remembrance, Jones said, "the history of the sufferings of our brethren" should survive down "to the remotest generations." Absalom Jones's Thanksgiving is more help this November than Abraham Lincoln's or the founders'.

The root of thanks ties the word to think and thought: at its base it means "to hold in mind." Gratitude is a kind of remembrance, an act of holding in mind, and so is meditating on an unjust past that remains terribly present.

Lincoln praised "fruitful fields and healthful skies" in creating Thanksgiving. He also warned just 18 months later, in his second inaugural address, that after centuries of slavery, "every drop of blood of drawn with the lash" might be repaid with the sword before the country knew peace.

In a better Thanksgiving, we would try to hold both these thoughts at once, the call to gratitude and the call to justice. No doubt this is hard for everyone, and for different reasons. For some, racial inequality and fear are raw realities every day, and anything inspiring in American history rings false and remote. For others, the call to reflect on injustice feels like a personal accusation. But we are caught in this history together.

Lincoln's Thanksgiving proclamation called for thanks "with one heart and one voice by the whole American people." He did not say that, for those words to be more than hypocrisy or obtuseness, Americans needed to build a country where one voice could be possible. But he knew that they did. And still do.

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Opinion Thu, 27 Nov 2014 09:47:33 -0500
Privateers Make a Water Grab http://truth-out.org/news/item/27692-privateers-make-a-water-grab http://truth-out.org/news/item/27692-privateers-make-a-water-grab

Tapped out(Image: Tapped out via Shutterstock)In Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy, set in our near future, corporations own countries.

These multinational corporations have grown so large as a result of globalization that they have sufficient economic power to take over or strongly manipulate national governments, initially only relatively small third-world governments, but later, larger developed governments too, effectively running whole countries. In Robinson's future history, the metanational corporations become similar to nation-states in some respects, while continually attempting to take over competitors in order to become the sole controller of the interplanetary market.

The newly released report on water privatization Troubled Waters: Misleading Industry PR and the Case for Public Water, Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU) suggests that we are closer to that reality than we realize.

The report identifies worldwide deceptive practices used by the water privatization industry. For example, it has become common in the United States that, when public infrastructure is privatized, for the public "partner" to receive a large up-front payment in exchange for a multi-generation contract that effectively makes the private contractor the owner of the asset.

Part of what makes water privatization attractive is the promise to provide modern innovations as part of the deal. In fact, this study finds that the true innovation is not technology but, rather, the up-front payment made to the public.

Cash-strapped governments are thrilled to get what seems to be so much money that it can solve all their financial needs. However, they do not understand how such a long contract will play out and find it hard to resist signing the contract. It is for just that reason that France outlawed up-front payments as part of privatization two decades ago – it distorts decision-making.

The US not only permits up-front payments, they are standard in American infrastructure privatization contracts. It is not surprising that would be the case, given the view that government can do nothing right while the private sector is always efficient. What most people do not understand is that the privatization industry owes no obligation to the public. Rather, private corporations' obligation is owed only to shareholders, and that obligation is to maximize profits for its shareholders.

The report finds that private water corporations meet their duty to maximize profits to their shareholders by "a) weakening their greatest competitor, the public water sector, b) opening up the water market and creating business opportunities for themselves, and c) removing as many obstacles as possible to the profitability of their operations."

The one thing that imposes accountability on a private company is vigorous market competition with many sellers and buyers. Infrastructure privatization seems to take on the role of a public entity, but because it is a monopoly, it has no competition and no market accountability. There is also no public sector accountability, such as open meetings acts, freedom of information acts, or other forms of oversight, because privatization means the asset is private.

The study finds, "The reality is private contracts and commercial law shield private water corporations from nearly all risks, meaning they have no incentive to behave efficiently . . [and have a] track record of raising rates and failing to invest adequately in water systems." In fact, the private water industry lobbies aggressively to amend recently enacted water legislation to extend public water funding to subsidize the private sector.

Privatization and Lost Democracy

The report describes how water privatization imposes a second cost on the public – it degrades democracy. The author provides many examples of ways in which the "private water industry's political interference threatens the democratic governance and sustainable management of public water systems."

In some cases, contractors have stolen money that was required by law to be returned to the public. In other cases, private water companies have been willing to harm the public opposing issuing boil-water notices when water becomes contaminated. After all, a private company's duty is to maximize shareholder profits, while it has no duty to the public.

This well documented report reads like a crime novel. For example, "In East Cleveland, Ohio, a consultant bribed the former mayor's office in order to secure a no-bid contract for CH2M HILL to run the city's water system. The contract eventually paid out $3.9 million to the corporation for services that the city had been providing for less than half of that amount. The former mayor and the consultant have been convicted of racketeering, and the city sued the corporation for $14 million for breach of contract."

This report on global water privatization shows why infrastructure privatization is not just an important topic, but, perhaps, the most important issue of our time. As the report points out,

"Democratic participation and oversight of our water systems are absolutely critical for the long-term sustainable management of these systems, but for United Water, they are potential risks to profit."

The report is by Emanuele Lobina, Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU) with Corporate Accountability International, Troubled Waters: Misleading Industry PR and the Case for Public Water, November 2014.

Interview with Katherine Sawyer, Organizer, Think Outside the Bottle & Public Water Works!

1. Please comment on the effects of water privatization on the health of democratic governance.

Facing increasing opposition abroad, over the past several decades, global water privatizers like Veolia and Suez have begun to see U.S. cities as expansion markets. These corporations have aggressively interfered in the democratic governance of water and have sought to trap cities in unfavorable privatization contracts. Veolia and United Water have long track records of attempting to secure private water contracts behind closed doors or with minimal public discourse or transparency.

Private water contracts themselves also evade the democratic process by limiting the responsiveness of public water utilities to the communities they serve. In fact, United Water lobbied legislators in New Jersey to oppose legislation that would increase its accountability to the communities where it operates. Private water corporations see transparency and accountability as undermining their commercial objectives. The details around many private water contract negotiations are not public nor available in Freedom of Information Act requests. Private contractors often claim that information on privatized infrastructure is "proprietary information" they contain – it is in the best interest of private water to keep their operations from being transparent. Public-public partnerships, however, focus on information sharing and increase transparency.

2. Please sketch out the incentives and perverse incentives created by water privatization and how they operate.

The private water industry lures many cities into contracts with promises of increased efficiency and industry improvements, but fails to deliver on those commitments. Many cities across the United States, from St. Louis to Detroit to Baltimore, are targeted by the industry, enticed with empty promises of savings and efficiency. Recent World Bank studies found either no significant differences in efficiency between the private sector and public sector or decreased efficiency with the private sector. Private water corporations are primarily concerned with efficient generation of corporate profit whereas public water systems are mandated to provide equitable access to clean and safe water for the entire community.

Private water is also packaging privatization in more palatable terms in order to entice cities. Common terms euphemistic for privatization include "public-private partnerships," Veolia's "Peer-Performance Solutions," and "consulting contracts." No matter the name, these contracts are either privatization by another name or a foot in the door to future privatization. These contracts often include subtle mentions of "shared" management or outline future phases with increased involvement and control.

The private water industry is interested in profit and the interest of its shareholders, not the communities where it operates. Time and time again, it has shown that it prioritizes the interests of its investors over the needs of the communities it purports to serve.

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News Thu, 27 Nov 2014 09:39:24 -0500
Show Up on Thanksgiving or Get Fired http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/27691-show-up-on-thanksgiving-or-get-fired http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/27691-show-up-on-thanksgiving-or-get-fired

Most Americans - from the Obama family in the White House to my little family in Texas - will get a much-deserved break from work on Thanksgiving Day. But millions of others won't. Wal-Mart, Target, Macy's, Radio Shack, and other retailers are also requiring their low-paid workers to put in a shift.

Walmart, open Thanksgiving(Photo: Robert Couse-Baker)Most Americans — from the Obama family in the White House to my little family in Texas — will get a much-deserved break from work on Thanksgiving Day. But millions of others won't.

Understandably, firefighters, police, and hospital workers will stay on the job. After all, they're providing essential services for our society.

Yet Wal-Mart, Target, Macy's, Radio Shack, and other retailers are also requiring their low-paid workers to put in a shift.

Why?

What's so essential about the gewgaws, gizmos, and garments these mass marketers of consumer excess sell that justifies forcing employees to give up this day of giving thanks with their families?

Retail giants already exploit the day after Thanksgiving — which they've dubbed "Black Friday" — for an orgy of commercialism. Yet that's not enough to satisfy these soulless profiteers.

So they've moved the start of Black Friday back into Thursday, often cutting into family mealtimes. Some are even opening their doors at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day, essentially wiping out this day of family grace for every employee they require to be at work.

Show up or lose your job. Thanks, boss.

A mall outside of Buffalo has gone even more extreme, requiring its 200-plus stores to open on Thanksgiving Day or pay a $200-an-hour fine.

What we have here is the insatiable excess of what Pope Francis recently condemned as "unbridled consumerism." Yet a Wal-Mart PR flack claims to be doing consumers a favor by staying open to "provide what consumers need."

Bovine excrement! Wal-Mart offers nothing that needs to be bought on a holiday.

And everything it sells can be bought the very next day from Costco, Crate & Barrel, Barnes & Noble, Dillard's, Nordstrom, Patagonia, and other stores that respect their employees and America's values by closing on Thanksgiving Day.

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Opinion Thu, 27 Nov 2014 09:15:54 -0500
Riot as the Language of the Unheard: Ferguson Protests Set to Continue In Fight For Racial Justice http://truth-out.org/news/item/27686-riot-as-the-language-of-the-unheard-ferguson-protests-set-to-continue-in-fight-for-racial-justice http://truth-out.org/news/item/27686-riot-as-the-language-of-the-unheard-ferguson-protests-set-to-continue-in-fight-for-racial-justice

"It is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard." Those were the words of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in March 1968, weeks before he was assassinated. Today parts of Ferguson are still burning after a night of protests following the grand jury's decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson, who killed Michael Brown. At least a dozen shops in the Ferguson area have been broken into and burned. A number of businesses burned for hours before firefighters arrived. We speak to Rev. Osagyefo Sekou of the Fellowship of Reconciliation and Jelani Cobb, director of the Africana Studies Institute at the University of Connecticut and a contributor to the New Yorker. "For over 100 days [the protesters in Ferguson] have been primarily nonviolent in their approach to this," Sekou says. "They gave the system a chance, and the system broke their heart."

TRANSCRIPT:

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman. We are broadcasting from St. Louis, Missouri, from Clayton and Ferguson. And despite the subfreezing weather here, Ferguson is on fire. Our guests are Reverend Osagyefo Sekou, Pastor from the First Baptist Church in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts who was dispatched to Ferguson by the Fellowship of Reconciliation, went to high school here in St. Louis and has family in Ferguson. And Jelani Cobb is with us. Associate Professor of History and Director of the Africana Studies Institute at the University of Connecticut, also a contributor to the New Yorker magazine. Reverend Sekou, let's begin with you. Describe the scene of the streets. In fact, when we're finished here, these protests are not finished. You're headed to yet another protest right behind us. We are standing in front of the Clayton Courthouse where the grand jury deliberated over the last months. The Clayton Courthouse is called the Justice Center.

REV. OSAGYEFO SEKOU: Well, it seems the case that the name of the center is inappropriate given the high level of repression and undemocratic engagement by the prosecutor, the Governor. These young people have been betrayed every level of government. As West Florissant burned last night, democracy was on fire last night. The Constitution shredded. And young people who have been backed into a corner, abused by the police system for many years — as you mentioned earlier, I went to high school here. I remember being told by my mother and my sister not to go through Ferguson. I remember police sticking their hands in our underwear and accusing us of being drug dealers when we were just some preppy kids with argyle socks attempting to go on dates. The rage that we have seen today, last night, is a reflection of the kind of alienation and the few options that young people feel like they have to express their democratic rights at this moment.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to talk about what burned and what didn't. We were on South Florissant. In fact, I saw Jelani at South Florissant. The riot police were lined up. There were armored vehicles, automatic weapons. They were really taking on the protesters. But when we went to West Florissant where the buildings are, the businesses, mainly black-run businesses, there was no National Guard in sight. When we were here months ago, when we were here months ago on West Florissant, you cannot even make a turn there. They had completely sealed off the area. But last night, to our shock, we drove unimpeded right down West Florissant. People were breaking windows. They were setting the buildings on fire. This is black Ferguson that was left by the National Guard, is that right?

REV. OSAGYEFO SEKOU: Yes. I was there for some two hours and witnessed first-hand the lack of response by the fire department, the casual nature, the way in which the way the police engaged. They eventually shot tear gas. But what we are seeing now is this was a primary example of the racial divide in Ferguson, in St. Louis, and the nation. Because this story has always been about Mike Brown and bigger than Mike Brown. Every other day in America, every other day, some black or brown child is subject to the arbitrary violence of the state with little to no recourse that every other day in America, a mother is writing a funeral program that would perhaps be the elegy of the democracy.

AMY GOODMAN: Jelani, I saw you on South Florissant. That is where the Ferguson police — the newly built Ferguson Police Department is. Describe the scene and what you saw.

JELANI COBB: Initially, there was a crowd gathered out there. People were silently hoping against hope that there would be — that there would be an indictment. And there was none in the offing. People were there. They were hearing the long-winded and insulting statement the prosecutor Bob McCulloch gave before announcing that there would be no indictment. Then you begin to see tensions ratcheting up. But as that happened, there was kind of a noose structure that the police enacted. They were on the kind of north side of the street. And then in short order, you saw armored vehicles and a very significant number of police kind of marching in formation with weapons — some had weapons drawn. There were tear gas canisters that began to be fired. They had people hemmed in, in essence, on South Florissant.

And as you said, on West Florissant, it was shocking to see the lack of police presence there. And so, we heard earlier in the evening, we heard from Governor Jay Nixon as well as last week on Friday at a press conference that Mayor Francis Slay of St. Louis gave, and they use the word "restraint." They said that the police would be restrained in their response. It seemed as if somehow they gotten the message, perhaps, that people wanted to be treated like human beings. And then we saw what restraint looked like last night. Restraint was a kind of nonchalant approach to what was happening on the black side of town with a hyper-vigilant approach to what was happening on the white side of town.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to read a quote of Dr. Martin Luther King. This was what three weeks before he was assassinated. It was March 14, 1968. He said, "It's not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent and intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say, tonight, that a riot is the language of the unheard." That is Dr. Martin Luther King three weeks before he was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, April 4, 1968. Reverend Sekou?

REV. OSAGYEFO SEKOU: It is quite relevant to this moment, the reality that these young people face. We hear it all the time for 100 days, them saying that I'm ready to die because I don't have anything to live for. School systems have betrayed them. The President has betrayed them. Eric Holder has betrayed them. Governor Nixon has betrayed them. Chief Jackson has betrayed them, the electoral system has betrayed them. They have extremely limited options, school systems decrepit, no economic opportunity. And so — then on top of that, to see their brother, their son laid in the street for 4.5 hours and to have wound upon wound that they are in a situation where that the destruction of property seems the only way that they can vent their rage because they have been given no recourses. And so, while the president calls for calm but is not dispatched enough resource to hold Darren Wilson and a draconian police force accountable, we of simply betrayed them. It is a shame that the nation has engaged as such behavior among the most vulnerable young people in our nation.

AMY GOODMAN: What about the issue, Jelani Cobb, of civil rights charges being brought against Darren Wilson? I mean, Eric Holder, the Attorney General, is retiring — leaving his position, but he did come to Ferguson. Yesterday, President Obama was in the White House and he honored 18 people. Among them were three posthumously; James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Mickey Schwerner. The state did not bring charges against the men who killed these three civil rights workers in 1964. But then the federal government did.

JELANI COBB: Right. There's been this conversation around this. One of the things that happens here, is that people will say the narrative that we have heard, we heard Mayor Giuliani say something along these lines, former Mayor Giuliani of New York, say something along these lines that people are rioting, that they have no respect for democracy, that they have no respect for other people's lives, other people's property. In fact, people have rioted and rebelled last night precisely because of the opposite. Because the traditional mechanisms of democracy have failed them. So, people did not riot immediately. There was some small scale skirmishes, but largely, people kind of withheld their anger in hopes that the actual system of legal recourse would grant them some relief in a situation of Michael Brown's death. That did not happen. And failing that, people began to enact the plan of last resort.

When Eric Holder came here in the summer, he counseled restraint, he counseled people to give the legal system an opportunity to work. And last night was a refutation of that. That given all their patience, that given all their hope, given all their idealism, despite what we've seen with Trayvon Martin, despite what we've seen with John Ford, John Crawford, rather, in Ohio, despite what we've seen with Oscar Grant — all these circumstances that we can outline — people still had faith that the legal system might give them a modicum of justice. It is difficult to say that there's a likelihood that there's going to be civil rights charges now. It would be very difficult to prove that this was done kind of racially motivated or that Mr. Brown was intentionally deprived of his civil rights. And so, I'm not much more optimistic than the people who were out on West Florissant rioting that the legal system will give any kind of recourse.

AMY GOODMAN: In 162,000 cases in 2010, grand juries, these federal cases, grand juries decline to return an indictment in 11. Of 162,000 federal cases. Reverend Sekou, this is the first night of protest, and I wanted to ask a question about the timing. There was a big discussion about whether the decision would be announced 48 hours later, 24 hours. In the end, they decided to announce it at night — late at night. Why? Did that contribute to what happened in the streets?

REV. OSAGYEFO SEKOU: I mean, it was clearly orchestrated in such a way that it created a context of provocation. That it was during the summer that it had become evident that the later it got, the hotter it got in terms of people's relationship to the police. And so is seems that way. But, as we think about this reference to the civil rights movements, these young people have been in the street for over 100 days. A third of the way of the Montgomery bus boycott. With limited resources, limited access to the civil rights tradition, limited support from various institutions and infrastructures. But for over 100 days, they been primarily nonviolent in their approach to this. They gave the system a chance, and the system broke their heart. And then many of them right now as we speak, 125 of my colleagues are in the streets right now prepared to engage in acts of civil resistance in a nonviolent tradition. There will be ongoing nonviolent protests. I mean think about that. This is the second longest protest, I believe, brother here's story, in 50 years of black people, calling America to account, making her say and be honorable to the things she has placed on paper. And so, rather than demonizing these young people, we should be celebrating. Because what they're doing is stretching that living document of the Constitution and creating a space for the possibility for America to be true to what she said on paper.

JELANI COBB: Can I add, can I add to this, Reverend Sekou? One of the things that we saw that was personally most inspiring here was that people began here in a community they said was not extensively organized. And they taught themselves rapidly how to organize. And they came out in that brutal, unforgiving, relentless heat of August and protested and marched and protested and a thunderstorm struck in that first week. You saw thunder and lightning in the sky, and people were marching and protesting saying, black lives matter, hands up, don't shoot.

We saw the weather change. We saw an early winter set in. And despite all of those obstacles, despite the aspersions from the official parts of this community as well as from other individuals that were in unsympathetic to this cause, people came out again night after night after night, and they refused to let Michael Brown's death be in vain. I think that is what we should take from this. This story is not over. The flames are a preface, they are not a coda. This story has not ended. I think that people will find some means of achieving justice in the long haul, and that people here are committed to doing whatever they need to do for as long as they need to do it to make sure that that happens.

AMY GOODMAN: And tonight, what are the plans? In terms of organized protests and what you understand of what else will be happening?

REV. OSAGYEFO SEKOU: Well, there are actions happening right now as we speak throughout Clayton, bearing witness to the injustice that these young people have experienced and that this city and community has experienced. There will be a action and people will be gathering at Kiener Plaza at noon today and subsequent action and there will be ongoing actions every day on every hour in this place for over 100 days. People have been in the street willing to put their bodies on the line, risking arrest, tear gas, pepper spray, because they are trying to keep alive the best of the democratic tradition.

AMY GOODMAN: Jelani Cobb, we have ten seconds. Your final thoughts?

JELANI COBB: The only thing that I can say is this, Ferguson is America. That what happened here is not atypical. This is a national problem and something that we all need to be mindful of it, or we will see more Fergusons in the future.

AMY GOODMAN: There are helicopters flying overhead right now. We're standing in front of what is known as the Justice Center where the grand jury said no indictment. That's right, they refused to indict officer Darren Wilson for the killing of Mike Brown, an 18-year-old African-American teenager August 9, 2014. That does it for our broadcast from Ferguson and Clayton. I want to thank our guests Osagyefo Sekou Pastor of the First Baptist Church in Jamaica Plain, as well as Jelani Cobb and Vince Warren and special thanks to our team.

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News Wed, 26 Nov 2014 13:35:46 -0500
Black Lives Matter: Ferguson Erupts After Grand Jury Clears Officer in Michael Brown Killing http://truth-out.org/news/item/27684-black-lives-matter-ferguson-erupts-after-grand-jury-clears-officer-in-michael-brown-killing http://truth-out.org/news/item/27684-black-lives-matter-ferguson-erupts-after-grand-jury-clears-officer-in-michael-brown-killing

A grand jury in St. Louis, Missouri has chosen not to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager. The decision follows three months of deliberation by the jury of nine whites and three blacks, including four hours of testimony from Wilson himself. The grand jury decision set off outrage in Ferguson and communities across the country who see Brown's killing as part of a wide-scale pattern of police mistreatment of people of color. In a statement, the Brown family said: "We are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions." We hear from St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch and go to the streets of Ferguson where Amy Goodman interviewed protesters last night.

TRANSCRIPT:

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We're broadcasting from just outside the Clayton County Courthouse in St. Louis, Missouri where, on Monday, a grand jury voted not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the killing of unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown. After three months of deliberation that included testimony from Wilson himself, the jury of nine whites and three blacks decided that Wilson should not be tried for any of the criminal charges he faced. Not first-degree murder, not second-degree murder, not voluntary or involuntary manslaughter. Many are questing the timing of the release of the grand jury decision, which came late at night instead of in broad daylight. Soon after the grand jury decision was read, police fired tear gas at protesters in Ferguson. The grand jury decision set off outrage in communities not only throughout St. Louis, but across the country who see Brown's killing as part of a wide-scale pattern of police mistreatment of people of color.

Here in Ferguson, at least a dozen stores were broken into and burned. A number of businesses burned for hours before firefighters arrived. Sporadic gunfire was heard throughout the night in the Ferguson streets. Police arrested at least 61 people. A large crowd gathered outside the Ferguson Police Department as the grand jury's decision was announced. The crowd included Michael Brown's mother, Lesley McSpadden, who broke into tears after hearing Wilson would walk free. In a statement, the Brown family said "We are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions." The statement continues, "While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change." The family has asked for support of the Michael Brown Law, which would ensure police officers wear body cameras. St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch announced the grand jury's decision here at the Clayton County courthouse Monday night. McCulloch said jurors had found "that no probable cause exists to charge Officer Wilson with any crime."

BOB MCCULLOCH: The duty of the grand jury is to separate fact from fiction. After a full and impartial and critical examination of all the evidence in the law and decide that evidence supported the filing of any criminal charges against Darren Wilson. They accepted and completed as monumental responsibility and conscientious and expeditious manner. It is important to note here that and say again that they are the only people, the only people who have heard and examined every witness and every piece of evidence. They discussed and debated the evidence among themselves before arriving at their collective decision. After their exhaustive review of the evidence, the grand jury deliberated over two days, making their final decision. They determined that no probable cause exists to file any charges against officer Wilson and returned a no true bill on each of the five indictments.

AMY GOODMAN: Bob McCulloch, the prosecutor himself, faced public scrutiny throughout the grand jury investigation, with calls for him to resign over allegations of a pro-police bias and questions raised about an unusual grand jury process that resembled a trial. McCulloch bristled when a reporter asked what message the grand jury's decision had sent.

REPORTER: Mr. McCulloch, you're somebody questioned by many members of the community with cases that have happened in the past, so how do you feel making this — announcing this decision and what message do you think it sends to the community that says that they have had numerous members of their community, young, predominantly black males killed by police with impunity, what kind of message do you think this decision says to them?

BOB MCCULLOCH: Well, a much better message than what you are sending, that young men being killed with impunity. They are not being killed with impunity. We look at every case that comes through, and whether they are young black or white men.

REPORTER: I think people looking at this from around the country are going to be struck by the fact that there is not a single law in the state of Missouri that protects and values the life of this young man who unquestionably was shot and killed dead. There is no dispute about that by the police officer. What do you say to people who wonder, is there something wrong with the laws here that allows this to happen? That after this happen says, we just move on, essentially, and this is justice? Is this really justice or is there something wrong with the laws in the state that would say this is OK?

BOB MCCULLOCH: It is another question that, really, I don't have an answer to that question, that what's wrong with the law. There are no laws to protect us. Every law out there is to protect the safety of every individual regardless of their age and regardless of their race. And so, if those laws are not working, then we need to work to change them.

AMY GOODMAN: Shortly after the grand jury's decision was announced, President Obama spoke in a nationally televised address and urged protesters to stay peaceful and police to exercise restraint.

PRES. OBAMA: We need to recognize that this is not just an issue for Ferguson. This is an issue for America. We have made enormous progress in race relations over the course of the past several decades. I have witnessed that in my own life. And to deny that progress, I think, is to deny America's capacity for change. But, what is also true is that there are still problems and communities of color aren't just making these problems up.

AMY GOODMAN: There you've got the voices of officialdom. Now for the voices from the streets. Democracy Now! is on the ground in Ferguson Monday night as protesters were met by walls of police officers, many in riot gear and heavily armed. The burning and property damage was worst on West Florissant, a strip of largely black-run businesses. The National Guard, heavily touted by the governor? We didn't see them there. We did see, though, a heavy police presence just blocks away on South Florissant, home to the Ferguson Police Department headquarters. That's where we began. We're here on South Florissant. Down the road are fires. Cars are on fire. We're following a group of protesters. Right now the police in riot gear. We have also seen state troopers are moving in. So, we are going to follow the protesters who are walking down the street.

POLICE OFFICER: Move back! Move back!

AMY GOODMAN: Here is clergy who are talking to the police. They are just shouting "move back!"

POLICE OFFICER: Move back! Move back! Move back!

REV. WALTRINA MIDDLETON: A militarizing force [Indiscernible]

POLICE OFFICER: Move back!

CROWD: Don't shoot!

POLICE OFFICER: Move back!

CROWD: Don't shoot!

POLICE OFFICER: Move back!

REV. WALTRINA MIDDLETON: They have a right to assemble. Do not [Indiscernible] people.

POLICE OFFICER: Get out of the street!

PROTESTER: We're out of the street but where do we go? Where do we go?

POLICE OFFICER: Move back!

POLICE OFFICER: —onto the sidewalk.

REV. WALTRINA MIDDLETON: We were trying to. We were there. They told them to move, and we were told that we could peacefully assemble here, and we did. And now they're here and Officer Wenning [sp] is still being aggressive. They're not bothering anyone. Can they stand here? They have a right — we were told that under the rules of engagement that they could peacefully assemble. They are here. They are here.

POLICE OFFICER: [Indiscernible] are breaking the rules ma'am. Where I need you to be is on the sidewalk

REV. WALTRINA MIDDLETON: OK, we have a right to peacefully assemble.

POLICE OFFICER: But this is breaking the law.

REV. WALTRINA MIDDLETON: The Street is blocked off, isn't it?

POLICE OFFICER: Yes, ma'am, it is.

KATRINA REDMON: My name is Katrina Redmon, and I'm very disturbed with the police presence out here. People were peacefully protesting. People got maced and teargassed. This is ridiculous. Look, all these officers for what reason?

PROTESTER: They thought [Indiscernible] black people was going to calm us down?

KATRINA REDMON: This is ridiculous to me.

PROTESTER: We don't give a [Expletive].

KATRINA REDMON: And this is, unfortunately, what my city has turned into.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the grand jury decision not to indict Officer Wilson?

KATRINA REDMON: Obviously that is a problem. It's the reason that everyone has a problem the fact that officer Wilson wasn't indicted. I mean, he killed an unarmed black teenager. There is no excuse for that. I mean, it was a man that was killed and it's somebody that walked away from it. And this is the reason that we are all out here because nobody gets answers. Nobody has had an answer since this has all happened. And that is a problem for us. And we want answers, essentially. Because it seems like the only way you can get away with murder is if you got a badge.

PROTESTER: If you got a badge you can get away with murder baby!

KATRINA REDMON: Which is unfortunate.

AMY GOODMAN: What will you be doing beyond tonight?

KATRINA REDMON: I'm going to continue to follow up and protest and make sure our voices are heard. Just because he wasn't indicted doesn't mean that the people of Ferguson or Florissant or Hazelwood or the surrounding areas are going to rest. If we have to come out here every single night and protest and make it be know that is a problem for our city with the black community, we will. I have no problem coming out here every single night to protest.

AMY GOODMAN: How do think things could change where you'd feel some hope?

PROTESTER 1: I mean, really I feel like all they had to do was indict him and things could have been peaceful. Things have been peaceful up to the point where they said that they don't care and he didn't do anything wrong. So, all they had to do was admit that they were wrong and right that by arresting him and things would calm down, at least a little bit, until they try to tell us he innocent again.

PROTESTER 2: At the end of the day black live don't matter to them, at the end of the day. At the end of the day, black lives don't matter to these cops, at the end of the day. We be locked up more than everybody in this whole community. You know what I'm saying? Get charged real quick, everything. We get false things put on us and everything. These cops is grimy. Everybody on his police force needs to get fired including the captains all the way down to whoever. Everybody got to get fired. Rubber bullets onto women and children. Peaceful protest. You know they don't care about no black lives. They know that. Come on, now. Black lives don't matter. Let's be one hundred. Black lives don't matter.

PROTESTER 3: That's the truth.

PROTESTER 2: Black lives don't matter. I ain't sugar coating nothing man. Black lives don't matter, y'all.

PROTESTER 1: Black lives don't matter to nobody but black people. So, we going to show you all how we feel, and that's what it is.

PROTESTER 2: Come on. It is what it is. Drug down the street, left there for four hours. Trash get picked up quicker than that. Come on, now. Come on, now. That's disrespectful. That's disrespect.

PROTESTER 3: What he say, what he say. We going to shake the heavens.

PROTESTER 1: We going to shake the heavens. If we don't get it, shut it down.

PROTESTER 2: Disrespectful from the jump.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you going to be — were you out protesting from August 9th?

PROTESTER 2: Of course, of course. I straight seen people get shot with rubber bullets. I didn't get shot. You feel me? I'm blessed.

PROTESTER 1: We've been gassed, we've been teargassed—

PROTESTER 2: Been all that. Black lives don't matter to these people.

PROTESTER 1: Maced and everything, and chased. People have been beaten. That's what happened the first day. That's how the rioting started the first day. A little boy got bit by a dog and it just cracked off since then.

PROTESTER 2: On citizens, on citizens. They firing onto citizens. Matter of fact, they firing onto their "so-called" citizens. That's how they look at us, their "so-called" citizens.

PROTESTER 1: They raised $400,000, $400,000 for Darren Wilson. For what? What is he going to do with $400,000 now? he just got a paycheck for killing someone. That is a nice paycheck — for killing somebody.

PROTESTER 3: He got a medal for killing a kid.

PROTESTER 1: Yeah, for killing a kid.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think it's possible the federal government will bring civil rights charges —

PROTESER 3: No.

PROTESER 2: No.

PROTESER 3: No.

PROTESER 2: No.

PROTESER 3: No.

PROTESER 2: No.

PROTESTER 2: It's like, it's like end of like a hundred something days ya'll.

REV. WALTRINA MIDDLETON: I'm Reverend Waltrina Middleton with the United Church of Christ National Youth Office. And I am here to keep the peace, but also mostly to support and stand with these young people who have a right to peacefully assemble and to express themselves. And I feel like they have a right as a natural reaction to be angry and to be heard in response to such suffering and pain. For so long, they've been told to be quiet, to be silent, and just to conform, and now they have an opportunity to express themselves. For many of us, we're not used to hearing these young people articulate themselves in this way, but this is their street, this is their home they have a right to be here and they have a right to say, you know what? One of our brothers was murdered and killed and we are responding to that pain. And I think sometimes in this society we're not used to, especially, to hearing young people of color speak so firmly and strongly about their rights.

AMY GOODMAN: What is your response to the grand jury decision not to indict officer Wilson?

REV. WALTRINA MIDDLETON: I'm hurt by it. I wonder myself, I'm looking forward to seeing what evidence was presented to them, to see if they had an opportunity to make a fair and balanced decision. It's hard to really say because we don't know what was put before them. But I do think that it is important that we take a look at this system to see if it is actually working. Is justice having an opportunity to prevail? Is democracy actually taking place. Because when you have a young person who dies and with all the evidence that we have been presented to show that he was unarmed and not a danger or a threat, why is it that they chose not to take this case to trial or to have an indictment? It is troubling to know that, what message is being sent out here to these young people is that their live don't matter. They have the position of, I have nothing to lose because I could just die on the street walking home, so.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you describe the police to me who are out here tonight?

REV. WALTRINA MIDDLETON: I do feel as if the demeanor is quite aggressive. I think that we were told that young people have a right to peacefully assemble. We were told that they have a right to come here and express themselves, and every thing they were promised is being denied. Everything that they have asked them to do, they have complied. They said to move back, they moved back. They said move to the sidewalk, they moved to the sidewalk. And basically, they're trying to push them out and once again silence them. And when you come to young people who are armed, just dressed in their winter clothes with militarized weapons and tear gas and all of this gear and guns and whatnot, it is intimidating, it's aggressive. How do you expect people to respond, especially after an announcement like that?

AMY GOODMAN: As we walk back behind the police cars and the riot police, there are several buses that say Missouri Department of Corrections, waiting to be filled.

ZECHARIAH WILLIAMS: My name is Zechariah Williams, I'm 19. We are standing in front of the corner coffeehouse. And it's broken into. As you can see glass everywhere. They did this to everything. They broke into beauty supply, they broke into Earn's, they broke into T-Mobile, they burned down a Walgreens, the fish place on the corner, burned down a Little Caesars. They broke into that bank.

AMY GOODMAN: And who is they?

ZECHARIAH WILLIAMS: Police in that bank because they broke into that one too.

AMY GOODMAN: And who is they?

ZECHARIAH WILLIAMS: Just the people that's out here rioting.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you feel about the grand jury decision not to indict officer Wilson?

ZECHARIAH WILLIAMS: It's sad to see. That's sad to see, like, they're family going through that. They're not showing no type of mercy. They tried to charge them on five charges and they didn't indict him on neither one of them.

AMY GOODMAN: Why do you think that is?

ZECHARIAH WILLIAMS: People protect their own. That's true. People will protect their own.

AMY GOODMAN: Have you ever been bothered by the police?

ZECHARIAH WILLIAMS: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Have you ever been arrested?

ZECHARIAH WILLIAMS: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: And what happened then?

ZECHARIAH WILLIAMS: Well, one time when I got arrested, I got punched in my mouth and —

AMY GOODMAN: By?

ZECHARIAH WILLIAMS: Officer Dewight. Sergeant dewight. Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Were you able to bring charges against him?

ZECHARIAH WILLIAMS: No.

AMY GOODMAN: So, we're standing in front of taco bell. The window has been smashed. We are right in front of AutoZone. It looks like it is about to blow with flames coming out on top of it. Across the street is the tire shop, Auto Tire. There a bunch of young people going in there. They've smashed the windows. A lot of cars going by. A lot of smoke here. This very much feels like ground zero. And people — young people are saying they don't care about us. This is West Florissant, ground zero for the protests. This is Ferguson, Missouri.

PROTESTER: I've been all— I'm from St. Louis. I've been al over there. I just came from where they just announced the verdict at and they shot tear gas. Everything on fire. And this is not what our youngsters were supposed to represent, because this is a new era civil rights movement. I didn't expect it out of them, but I can't blame them for it. Civil disobedience, 'cause ain't nobody — it's just reckless property. And then all of them been knowing and they been over here so — to keep a tab because I'm 43 years of age. All of these over here, they already got their insurance and they already had three months to prepare for this. So, they're not losing out on anything. They probably relocate. But as far as the money value or the monetary value, everything is still going to be the same.

AMY GOODMAN: We're back on Canfield Drive. There are some helicopters at the sky — there's smoke in the air because West Florissant is on fire. But here is the stuffed animal Memorial for Mike Brown who was gunned down right here in the road between the apartment complexes. There are dozens of animals, stuffed animals, a baseball cap — it might be Mike Brown's original baseball cap. This is the place where on August 9 officer Darren Wilson killed Mike Brown. Today, a grand jury decided not to indict officer Wilson for that killing.

PROTESTER: After they played us like that with Darren Wilson, I expect expect for [Expletive] to go hard. It is was it is. Ain't no stopping us. No justice, no peace.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I am Amy Goodman with special thanks to our crew here on the ground, to Sam Alcoff and to Renée Feltz and to Aaron Maté. That report after midnight last night. Today, we're standing in front of the Clayton Courthouse where the grand jury has deliberated over the last months. They call it the Justice Center. When we come back, we will be joined by guests who've been here on the streets as well as a legal expert to talk about exactly what the grand jury did or did not decide. This is Democracy Now! We will be back in a minute.

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News Wed, 26 Nov 2014 12:46:39 -0500