Speakout http://www.truth-out.org Thu, 25 Aug 2016 16:11:47 -0400 en-gb Rap-Rock Gods to Confer Anthems From Barclays http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/37371-rap-rock-gods-to-confer-anthems-from-barclays http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/37371-rap-rock-gods-to-confer-anthems-from-barclays

The anti-heroes of rock and rap, Prophets of Rage, are set to galvanize Brooklyn, New York, this Saturday, August 27. Comprised of members of Rage Against the Machine, Public Enemy and Cypress Hill, their nationwide "Make America Rage Again" tour touches directly on the complex topic of politics and how it is used to push people around.

2016.8.25.Negroni.1(Photo: Danny Clinch)

The anti-heroes of rock and rap, Prophets of Rage, are set to galvanize Brooklyn, New York, this Saturday, August 27. Comprised of members of Rage Against the Machine, Public Enemy and Cypress Hill, their nationwide "Make America Rage Again" tour touches directly on the complex topic of politics and how it is used to push people around.   

Some writers have derided this super group as simplistic in their message, but the musicians are clearly serious: They were banned at the last minute by correction officers from playing inside the California Rehabilitation Center for 800 prisoners. Meanwhile, they've designated a portion of their un-cost-prohibitive ticket sales to provide rehabilitation for the homeless.  As of Wednesday morning, August 24, hundreds of tickets were still available, according to the Barclays Center.

And speaking of politics, the band recently played live for free in Cleveland, Ohio, to call out the Republican National Convention, and yet their whole anti-politics shtick isn't just anti-GOP. Cypress Hill's B-Real has called for voters to write in Prophets of Rage for president come November.

This weekend, you'll have the chance to hear Tom Morello playing the beyond-major-chord-progression riffs to "Bulls on Parade," "I'm Housin'," "Guerrilla Radio" and the new listenable hit single "The Party's Over."

Like most rock shows that scoff at the status quo, it'll be a good place to schluff off the BS. And looking ahead at the Barclays Center fall lineup, any other show after this one will be downhill. Prophets of Rage will be like a dream home purchase in a credit bubble.

2016.8.25.Negroni.2(Photo: Kevin Winter)

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Speakout Thu, 25 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Do Huge Campaign Contributions Underline the Power of the Elite? http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/37370-do-huge-campaign-contributions-underline-the-power-of-the-elite http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/37370-do-huge-campaign-contributions-underline-the-power-of-the-elite

In 2016, the financial sector (comprising of finance, insurance and real estate) has contributed as much as $637 million in 2016 to candidates, candidate committees and outside spending groups, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The startling statistics reveal that this sector has dominated the list of largest campaign contributors across 13 sectors since 1990. A bulk part of this money has been raised in the form of soft/outside money, which has increased 17 times since 2010. The increase from $17.9 million in 2010 to $309.41 million in 2016 has largely been a result of the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling in 2010.

In 2016, the financial sector (comprising of finance, insurance and real estate) has contributed as much as $637 million in 2016 to candidates, candidate committees and outside spending groups, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The startling statistics reveal that this sector has dominated the list of largest campaign contributors across 13 sectors since 1990. A bulk part of this money has been raised in the form of soft/outside money, which has increased 17 times since 2010. The increase from $17.9 million in 2010 to $309.41 million in 2016 has largely been a result of the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling in 2010.

The sector not only leads in campaign contributions, but also ranks third for largest annual lobbying expenditures of $241.58 million in 2016. Industries included in the sector are insurance, securities and investment, real estate and commercial banks, with most lobbying expenditures across more than 80 industries, according to the data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics. Interestingly, many of these industries in the financial sector played a key role in worsening the events that led to the 2008 financial crisis. In a 2011 National Bureau of Economic Research study titled, "A Fistful of Dollars: Lobbying and the Financial Crisis," it was revealed that "the political influence of the financial industry played a role in the accumulation of risks, and hence, contributed to the financial crisis."

Before the 2010 Citizens United case, the role of money in political campaigns was received with mixed reviews, and only few studies found an existing correlation between lobbying expenditures and campaign contributions. But after 2010, the contributions by the financial sector started to amplify at alarming rates. Citizens United allowed unrestricted contributions to pour in through outside groups, with a condition that there be no coordination with candidate or candidate's committees. Such groups are legally allowed to advocate for or against a certain candidate and have to publically disclose the sources of funds. Critics of excessive money in politics have argued against wealthy donors, disputing that unlimited contributions can become a problem when such money is privately funded, unrestricted and raised by a handful of wealthy individuals.

A 2008 working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research disclosed that the congressional members who receive larger campaign contributions from the financial industry were more likely to vote in favor of the bank bailout legislation of 2008. So it won't be incorrect to say that sometimes, unlimited campaign contributions from top contributors can override economic concerns only to safeguard their own interests. Such tremendous power to skew important regulations (that are made into law by one party only to be brought back later by the other) typically originate from affluent individuals, typically forming the top 1% or so of US wealth-holders.

A pilot study conducted in 2013 titled, "Democracy and the Policy Preferences of Wealthy Americans" indicated that the 1% of US wealth-holders are extremely politically active and are much more conventional than a vast majority of Americans with respect to important policies that include taxation, economic regulation and social welfare programs. The industries in the financial sector tend to mostly agree on common issues like opposing taxes and challenging excessive regulations for hedge funds or financial instruments, such as derivatives.

A deeper analysis of 14 million records (that included data on campaign contributions, lobbying expenditures, federal budget allocations and spending for the 2008, 2010 and 2012 election cycles) by the Sunlight Foundation showed the power of money in politics. The examination concluded that on an average, for every dollar spent influencing politics, the nation's most politically active corporations received $760 from the government.

Between the period of 2007 and 2012, 200 of the United States' most politically active corporations spent a total of $5.8 billion on federal lobbying and campaign contributions. In the completed 2013-2014 election cycle, the financial sector spent more than $1.4 billion through campaigns to influence decision-making in Washington. Leading lobbyists can often find loopholes in bills and soften the tough regulations that may benefit the economy as a whole. In 2013, it was reported that top bank lobbyists helped in softening the financial regulations by "helping to write it themselves." In the past, through intense lobbying efforts, wealthy billionaires have succeeded in revoking some of the most crucial Wall Street regulations, which both parties have mentioned to either replace or bring back in their 2016 party platforms.

One such regulation is the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act, which was initially repealed purely because big lobbying firms lobbied hard to revoke it. The repeal of the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act in 1999 under President Bill Clinton's administration was a result of the $300 million lobbying effort by Wall Street banks. The repeal allowed deposit-taking activities to merge with risky speculative activities, introducing the era of deregulation and a series of bank mergers. Though the repeal was not the root cause of the 2008 crisis, it surely prompted the problem of "too-big-to-fail." In 2016, both the Democrats and the Republicans want to bring their own versions of the Glass-Steagall Act to reduce risky activities of big banks. In 2016, the securities and investment industry was the largest contributor to campaigns with $321.66 million ($206.48 million as outside money) and lobbying expenditure of $49.22 million.

The second important Wall Street regulation is the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, which became a law under the Obama administration after surviving the intense lobbying by some of the biggest banks on Wall Street. Regulations under the Dodd-Frank Law addressed the 2008 issues and laid down strict regulations to reduce systemic risk posed by big banks. After the introduction of Dodd-Frank, when President Obama signed the law, he said, "Passing this … was no easy task. We had to overcome the furious lobbying of an array of powerful interest groups and a partisan minority determined to block change." In 2012, the top five finance industry groups, including Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, sent 406 lobbyists to Capitol Hill with the intention to dismantle the Dodd-Frank Act. 

In 2016, even though the campaign contributions by commercial banks have halved from $61.88 million in 2012 to $30.98 million, the industry still remains amongst the top 20 lobbying industries. Besides trade groups like American Bankers Association, the commercial banking industry includes financial institutions such as Bank of America, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase. In 2016, Republicans have chosen to replace the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

Heavy lobbying for private benefits and big money through unlimited campaign contributions are some of the biggest problems of excessive money in political campaigns. Many of the Wall Street reforms that both Democrats and Republicans aim to bring back are closely associated with heavy lobbying by the wealthy in the past. Steve Israel highlighted this concern in an op-ed for The New York Times. He wrote,

This isn't 'Shark Tank.' This is your democracy. But as the bidding grows higher, your voice gets lower. You're simply priced out of the marketplace of ideas. That is, unless you are one of the ultra-wealthy.

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Speakout Thu, 25 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
The TPP and the Dire Threat to Affordable Drug Prices http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/37334-the-tpp-and-the-dire-threat-to-affordable-drug-prices http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/37334-the-tpp-and-the-dire-threat-to-affordable-drug-prices

Drug prices in the US are already approaching a crisis point for many patients unable to afford their prices, often despite being insured. These examples indicate how serious this problem has become.

Drug prices in the US are already approaching a crisis point for many patients unable to afford their prices, often despite being insured. These examples indicate how serious this problem has become:

•  The use of prescription drugs by Americans, partly driven by direct-to-consumer advertising since the 1990s, has reached an all-time high.

•  Many people take five or more medications, especially those with chronic conditions.

•  Under the catastrophic drug coverage plan enacted in 2003, the Medicare Part D program, beneficiaries pay just 5 percent of the bill when their drug costs pass $4,850; insurers pay 15 percent of the remainder, with taxpayers paying 80 percent, thereby incenting drug companies to drive their prices sky-high.

•  Yearly out-of-pocket costs and expenses for cancer drugs often amount to one-half the average annual household income, and many cancer patients are forced to reduce the frequency of their prescribed drugs and cut their spending on food and clothing to get by.  

•  The cost of Gleevec, a 15-year old pill for leukemia, averaged $10,893 per month in 2014, four times its initial price.

•  According to the Milliman Medical Index, the cost of prescription drugs for a typical family of four covered by an average employer-sponsored preferred provider organization (PPO) in 2016 came to $4,270, about four times higher than in 2001.

•  The US Department of Health and Human Services projects that total drug spending will reach $535 billion in 2018, almost 17 percent of all health care spending.

•  Between May 2015 and May 2016, prices received by drug makers rose by nearly 10 percent, the second highest increase among the 20 largest components in the Producer Price Index, despite pushback from insurers, scrutiny by US lawmakers, and growing public concerns about drug costs.

Now enter the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive, pro-corporate "free trade" agreement negotiated mostly in secret by large corporate players in the world economy. It was negotiated over seven years in closed-door sessions excluding the press, policy makers, and the public. Its 30 chapters were released in November 2015, with most chapters granting specific new rights and powers for corporations. As a regional trade agreement, it includes 12 countries -- the US, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam -- all of which signed the document "in principle" earlier this year. None have yet ratified it.

If ratified, this is what the TPP would do:

•  Require every signatory nation to grant a new 20-year monopoly for new uses of old medicines.

•  Provide other options for patent extensions, or "ever greening."

•  Give companies marketing exclusivity protections that create monopoly even when a drug is off-patent.

•  Provide drug companies with greater opportunities to influence government drug coverage and reimbursement policies.

•  Lock in rules that would limit competition and contribute to preventable suffering and death.

In effect, the TPP would give drug companies wide latitude to jack up prices and costs of medications with their expanded monopoly rights and keep lower cost generics off the market. Its rules could not be altered without consensus by all signatories to the agreement. Moreover, even in countries such as Canada and Australia, where the pharmaceutical sector and drug prices are regulated by the government, the TPP could have profound effects on the criteria these countries use in decisions about drug safety and effectiveness, the approval process, listing of drugs on public formularies, post-market surveillance and inspection, and the future pricing of drugs.

We have an epidemic of prescription drug use with harms not just to affordability of necessary care but also to patient safety. As the drug industry rolls on with its advertising and lobbying campaign for increased revenues for its CEOs and shareholders, adverse drug reactions have become the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, killing more than 2,400 people every week. Dr. Donald Light, professor of comparative health care at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, sums up the problem this way:

Flooding the market with hundreds of minor variations on existing drugs and technically innovative but clinically inconsequential new drugs, appears to be the de facto hidden business model of drug companies. In spite of its primary charge to protect the public, the FDA criteria for approval encourage that business model ... The clear conflict of interest and approving so many new drugs with few clinical benefits serve corporate interests more than public interests, especially given the large risks of serious harm.

The TPP will make all this even worse. If ratified in this country, as it could be in a lame duck Congress after the November elections, the TPP would drive drug prices in the US even higher than they now are, limit competition further, and prevent the government from negotiating drug prices, as the Veterans Administration has done for many years, successfully gaining discounts of about 42 percent. The drug industry's trade and lobbying group, PhRMA, would be the main beneficiary of TPP policies, all at patients' and taxpayers' expense:

The current political landscape regarding the TPP raises worrisome concerns. It has had the support of most Republicans and many Democrats, including Hillary Clinton until she recently changed her position. President Obama has been pushing for its passage as part of his legacy. PhRMA is lobbying heavily for its enactment, including $238 million in 2015 and campaign contributions of some $50 million in this last year.

There are some bright spots that give us hope that the TPP can be defeated and that an expanded role by government can alleviate this crisis in drug costs and prices. Since the TPP will also ship more jobs overseas to lower-cost labor markets, push down U. S. wages and increase income inequality, a growing number of organizations have joined together to oppose it, including labor unions, consumer, senior, health, human rights, and civil rights organizations. According to a recent AARP survey, 81 percent of respondents over age 50 think that drug prices are too high and 90 percent want politicians to do something about it. Proposals have been made in at least 10 states demanding transparency in drug pricing, while California has Prop 61 on the November ballot, which would block state agencies from paying more than the prices negotiated by the VA for prescription drugs.  The American Medical Association and the American Association of Health-System Pharmacists have joined together in calling for a ban on direct-to-consumer drug advertising.

TPP is a danger to this country. It would only serve corporate masters, and must be defeated.

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Speakout Tue, 23 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Making Rights Work: A Review of "The Human Rights Enterprise" http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/37333-making-rights-work-a-review-of-the-human-rights-enterprise http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/37333-making-rights-work-a-review-of-the-human-rights-enterprise

A few years ago, when California was going through a major budget crisis and money for education was being cut back dramatically, many students protesting the cuts claimed that education was a right. Conservatives shot back that education wasn't a right, it was a privilege. If education is a right, then how did we get that right? And if I have a right to an education, who has a duty to give it to me?

A few years ago, when California was going through a major budget crisis and money for education was being cut back dramatically, many students protesting the cuts claimed that education was a right. Conservatives shot back that education wasn't a right, it was a privilege.

If education is a right, then how did we get that right? And if I have a right to an education, who has a duty to give it to me? Early theorists of rights, such as John Locke, argued that rights came from God. They also saw rights almost entirely in negative terms, as in, I have the right to be left alone. As a theorist of capitalism, Locke saw rights to property and rights to autonomous decision making as the most fundamental rights.

It wasn't until the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR) was passed at the end of World War II that the idea of positive rights became widely accepted. The drafters of UNDHR expanded the notion of rights dramatically, Enshrined in it are rights to things like water, education and health care.

In The Human Rights Enterprise, authors William T. Armaline, Davita S. Glasberg and Bandana Purkayastha claim that while rights discourse is incredibly effective as a way to challenge power, most of the literature on human rights focuses on the "(1) formal legal approaches to defining and realizing human rights…. (2) the various legal and philosophical traditions that provide the foundations … [for human rights]; and (3) the relationships between state policy and politics at the national and international levels …"

What is missing, they argue, is a look at the real on-the-ground ways that claims to human rights actually function to challenge power. As political sociologists, they show how rights work as a dynamic process with citizens of the world and social movements, playing roles at least as important as governments in realizing our rights.

Human Rights Enterprise

They define a "human rights enterprise" as:

The process through which human rights are defined and realized, including, but not limited to the legal instruments and regimes often authorized by international elites. The human rights enterprise includes both legal, statist approaches to defining and achieving rights through agreements among duty-bearing states, and social movement approaches that manifest as social struggles over power, resources, and political voice. The human rights enterprise offers a ways to conceptualize human rights as a terrain of social struggle, rather than a static, contingent legal construct.

They trace the real political choices that those challenging racism in the US in the 1950s faced when deciding how to frame their claims against the government. Should they ask for human rights or civil rights? Based on the UNDHR, human rights include both positive and negative rights, and that would have been a nice vehicle for carrying the claims that those in the movement had for challenging both economic as well as political disenfranchisement that were core parts of US racism.

The problem the movement faced, though, was that in the context of the Cold War, calls for positive rights were seen as "communist." Civil rights -- or the rights enshrined in the US Constitution, on the other hand -- were deemed to be less controversial.

The Soviet Bloc had championed economic, social, and cultural human rights, while political and civil rights had been the hallmark of the Western nations. If the civil rights groups pushed for economic and social human rights, they would be branded communist. If they pushed for civil rights, they would be downplaying their demand for economic rights. Within this intersecting international and national context, groups like the NAACP chose, for pragmatic reasons, the frame of civil rights as the vehicle to demand racial justice.

With that decision, the movement was able to gain incredible traction in challenging the system of legal segregation that existed at that time in the US. But a negative consequence of that decision, which we can see in present forms of US racism, it that it left economic inequality untouched.

The point here is not to criticize the decision made by those civil right organizations, but rather, to understand the complex set of power dynamics that surround any attempt to gain rights and to use concepts of rights to challenge power.

Challenging Power

The Human Right Enterprise comes at a time when there are big shifts in how politics functions globally. In the 20th century, the focus was generally on governments as the primary place to challenge power. Trying to control a national government was one of the main strategies of liberation movements.

In his book, The Good Citizen, Michael Schudson argues that beginning in the mid-20th century, there has been a shift in how democracy functions. As people increasingly advocate for things like safe products and an end to domestic violence, the wall between the personal and the political becomes less clear. Increasingly, people are working to advocate for their rights in areas that in previous times were not considered to be political issues. And these claims to rights are a significant way that people are challenging power.

Drawing heavily on Schudson's work, in his book, the Life and Death of Democracy, John Keene argues that beginning around the middle of the 20th century, there was a proliferation of challenges to power, which existed outside the structures of formal representative democracy, working to challenge domination through an increasingly wide array of mechanisms.

 [T]he years since 1945 have seen the invention of about a hundred different types of power-monitoring devices that never before existed within the world of democracy. These watchdog and guide-dog and barking-dog inventions are changing both the political geography and the political dynamics of many democracies, which no longer bear much resemblance to textbook models of representative democracy, which supposed that citizens' needs are best championed through elected parliamentary representatives chosen by political parties.

… These extra-parliamentary power-monitoring institutions include -- to mention at random just a few -- public integrity commissions, judicial activism, local courts, workplace tribunals, consensus conferences, parliaments for minorities, public interest litigation, citizens' juries, citizens' assemblies, independent public inquiries, think-tanks, experts' reports, participatory budgeting, vigils, ‘blogging' and other novel forms of media scrutiny.

We are in a period where power is increasingly understood to reside in transnational corporations, in complex social systems and in culture. It is larger, more slippery than forms of power that are seen to reside in governments. Claims to rights are one of the most powerful vehicles we have for packaging challenges to these diffuse forms of power. The Human Rights Enterprise claims that realizing the dreams that are embedded in rights requires that we look to complex social systems and to how challenges to power can work effectively.

A Right to Education

Armaline, Glasberg and Purkayastha have done helpful work showing us the complex process by which people express a grievance, give that grievance meaning by claiming that a right has been violated, and use those claims and pressures to transform the real ways that power operates.

When claiming that they have a right to an education, young people who are being priced out of college will continue to claim that they have a right to an education. And as their movements are successful and the claims they make ring true to others, that right comes into reality and begins to function as a way to challenge the government to give the necessary resources for them to realize their dreams. 

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Speakout Tue, 23 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Twenty Years Ago Today, Democrats Privatized Welfare; Now We Know Better http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/37322-twenty-years-ago-today-democrats-privatized-welfare-now-we-know-better http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/37322-twenty-years-ago-today-democrats-privatized-welfare-now-we-know-better

Twenty years ago today, President Bill Clinton "ended welfare as we knew it." In practical terms, this roughly doubled the number of those in extreme poverty. Philosophically, the move signaled that the Democratic Party believed that the "war on poverty" was a battle best fought by "the market." Yet the promotion of equal opportunity -- and especially racial integration -- has always been a task that we have entrusted to our elected officials.

Twenty years ago today, President Bill Clinton "ended welfare as we knew it." In practical terms, this roughly doubled the number of those in extreme poverty. Philosophically, the move signaled that the Democratic Party believed that the "war on poverty" was a battle best fought by "the market." Yet the promotion of equal opportunity -- and especially racial integration -- has always been a task that we have entrusted to our elected officials. As such, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton needs to focus on the government's role in advancing those that welfare reform has left behind, and in doing so, re-establish our collective role in promoting economic and racial equality.

Federal interventions to promote racial equality were always controversial; however, it was Ronald Reagan who masterfully connected attacks on "big government" and the deconstructed programs that promoted racial equality. Borrowing a page from Reagan's playbook in 1996, Bill Clinton declared the "era of big government" to be over because "big government does not have all the answers." That same year, in signing the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, popularly known as "Welfare Reform," Clinton's message was loud and clear: Families who failed to uphold the "basic values of work, responsibility and family" would be left to fend for themselves.

Over the past 20 years, we have seen a notable increase in "deep poverty," with states with the highest percentage of Black welfare recipients making it the hardest to qualify. However, since Hillary Clinton continues to believe that the 1996 reform gave beneficiaries the tools they needed to find work and take care of their families, she maintains an almost unshakeable faith that it is the market, not the government, that should provide us with a social safety net. As such, her primary goal is to "build a stronger, fairer economy" with jobs that provide "a sense of dignity and pride" to all. 

Yet the problem with welfare reform was not that our economy wasn't strong enough; it was that forcing welfare recipients to work didn't lead to financial stability and it didn't help those who could not find jobs. Another problem, our research shows, is that welfare reform's aggressive pursuit of child support to replace eliminated government-funded benefits actually plunges "the most economically fragile fathers and their families deeper into poverty."

Regardless of what politicians on the left and right say during campaigns, it is not the economy that will heal what ails us, it is the concerted will of the people. The government is a tool that we as citizens have used to accomplish monumental tasks, from the construction of interstate highways to groundbreaking regulations like child labor laws. In particular, it is governmental efforts that have historically led to the greatest progress in racial integration and equalizing access to opportunity, such as through policies promoting school desegregation and inclusive public employment.

With the leadership of our elected officials, we have the power to help families succeed in life regardless of their zip code, race or gender. A first step in reaching these families, and particularly children -- who have a 21 percent poverty rate and are not well-served by the market's search for profits -- would be to increase the Child Tax Credit (CTC) significantly and eliminate the minimum earnings requirement to qualify for it. This could reduce the overall child poverty by 13 percent and lift 18 percent of children under the age of three out of poverty.

In addition, we could invest in the next generation through universal pre-K and Baby Bonds, which would put an average of $20,000 into an account for every child at birth. This money would help provide opportunities for education and entrepreneurship for the next generation, regardless of the financial position of their parents. To support parents' economic security and mobility, we could enact a federally backed jobs guarantee, perhaps tied to Hillary Clinton's proposed investments in infrastructure, which could also address the longstanding pattern of racial inequality in unemployment.

While politicians are eager to talk about an "economy that works for all," they seem to have forgotten that we put trust in the government to take care of needs that the market cannot address. In particular, since the market is not designed to address racial inequality, we the people must work to transform our policies and institutions to make it possible for all Americans to pursue their dreams and live successful lives. Unlike Clinton's welfare reform in 1996, these inclusive policies would truly put an "end to welfare as we know it."

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Speakout Mon, 22 Aug 2016 12:51:15 -0400
Black Lives Matter Movement Resulted From Prosecutor Throwing George Zimmerman Case http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/37262-black-lives-matter-movement-resulted-from-prosecutor-throwing-george-zimmerman-case http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/37262-black-lives-matter-movement-resulted-from-prosecutor-throwing-george-zimmerman-case

Florida prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda threw the case against George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin in 2013. The prosecutor discredited his key witnesses and excluded an eyewitness to the murder. This writing examines parts of his closing argument to jurors and reveals the excluded eyewitness.

Florida prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda threw the case against George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin in 2013. The prosecutor discredited his key witnesses and excluded an eyewitness to the murder. This writing examines parts of his closing argument to jurors and reveals the excluded eyewitness.

Bernie de la Rionda's Trial Experience

Bernie de la Rionda has worked as an attorney for the state of Florida for 30 years. In 2010, the FBI honored him with the FBI Director's Community Leadership Award for being an "exceptional prosecutor." A press release said he was involved in more than 250 jury trials, 67 being homicide cases. Also, state attorney Angela B. Corey wrote, "It is an honor for our young lawyers to have the great privilege of learning from his wealth of information and experience." 

Discrediting Key Witnesses

Rachel Jeantel

Rachel Jeantel was a friend of Trayvon Martin, and she held a phone conversation with him while Martin said he was being followed.

De la Rionda stated that Rachel Jeantel "could have embellished or lied about what Trayvon Martin said and no one would have known the difference." He cast doubt on a key witness who asserted that George Zimmerman approached and attacked Martin. 

Bernie de la Rionda said the following:

But did [Rachel Jeantel]speak the truth? Because when you think of it, she was the person that was speaking to the victim. And really the conversation that she had with the victim, nobody would know whether she's telling the truth or not other than her. I mean, we have the phone records that established it. That there's no dispute that they were talking. But what I'm saying is, she didn't have to -- she could have embellished. She could have lied about what the victim said … But she didn't come in here and lie to you about that. I mean, she could have and nobody would have known the difference. It wasn't like her conversation was being recorded.

De la Rionda suggested Rachel Jeantel may have lied, says there is no proof that she did not lie, and he points out each of her "lies" to the jurors. An experienced attorney knows he must speak convincingly to persuade jurors on an issue when reasonable doubt largely determines the outcome of the case. He did not do this. He even suggested to jurors that they may want to disregard Jeantel's testimony:

You decide whether she was telling the truth…. Now, she did lie about [attending Martin's] funeral and about her age originally to the police, to me, to the mother. Why? OK. She's guilty of that. She didn't want to go have to see the body. She didn't want to deal with it. And she lied to the mother of Trayvon Martin. So you could disregard her testimony because of that. She lied about her age because she didn't want to come forward. Maybe she realized that she might have to testify and people would find out that she can't read cursive, unfortunately.  (Emphasis added.)

Jayne Surdyka

Jayne Surdyka saw the struggle between Trayvon Martin and another man on the ground. She also saw Zimmerman hit himself on the back of his head.

De la Rionda cast doubt on Surdyka's testimony:

Ms. Surdyka, you heard from her, too. And you've got the vantage point in terms of there of where her place was…. She was looking out. She was reading. She got up. She looked. She had a good vantage point. She did observe something. And what does she tell you? That in her opinion based on what she saw, she thought the bigger man was on top. And she told you that the voice she heard, she thought was of a child versus an older person. Now, is she an expert? Had she ever heard these voices before?  No. She's just telling you what she believes. (Emphasis added.)

De la Rionda said "[Surdyka] did observe something" instead of asserting that she saw Zimmerman on top of Martin. He created doubt by saying she is no expert and never heard the voices before. If you closed your eyes and heard this person talking, would you think he is on the defense team or the prosecution team?

Bernie de la Rionda said the following:

Just like you've had a bunch of other people come in and say, that is George Zimmerman's voice and that is Trayvon Martin's voice. You decide, but she told you as best she could what she observed. And what's consistent in terms of what she observed and what happened. Because, see, the issue is at that time, when there was contact between the defendant and the victim, did it occur as the defendant claims?

He completely discounted Surdyka's testimony about the voice she heard. Here, he used his favorite phrase, "You decide." On the other hand, the defense did not tell the jurors to decide for themselves. They told jurors with certainty what they wanted them to believe.  They did not leave room for the jurors to doubt. Here, the prosecution took every opportunity to introduce doubt.

To suggest a scenario that works in the defendant's favor causes jurors to think about that. On the other hand, to assert a scenario that works against the defense helps remove reasonable doubt.

Bernie de la Rionda said the following:

First of all, you really have to believe he really wasn't following him and he was just kind of minding his own business. He was going out for a walk. His walk got interrupted because some guy attacked him. You've got to believe that. You've got to believe he wasn't following anybody. He wasn't up to doing anything. He was just kind of minding his own business.

The Excluded Eyewitnesses

Several witnesses who had information supporting Trayvon Martin did not testify, two of which were Mary Cutcher and Jeremy Weinberg. Jeremy Weinberg saw more than he told since he is heard in the background of a 911 call saying, "He warned me he'd shoot him." His mate is also heard telling him to get inside. Yes, Zimmerman had a conversation with someone before shooting Trayvon Martin. Weinberg also saw Zimmerman and Martin together before Zimmerman shot Martin. However, none of this information or this eyewitness was presented at trial to show Zimmerman lied about what happened.

This Black life, Trayvon Martin's, did not matter to George Zimmerman, nor law enforcement. Trayvon Martin was innocent, but denied justice for his murder from the police to the prosecutor. The Black Lives Matter movement was created during this time because of the prevailing belief among Black Americans that justice had not been served. 

Click here to watch Bernie de la Rionda's closing argument.

Most of the above material is taken from the author's book, Accessories After the Fact: The Trayvon Martin Murder Cover-Up. The remainder are the author's comments for this writing.

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Speakout Wed, 17 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
"Stop the World, I Want to Get Off": Trump and Authoritarianism http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/37215-stop-the-world-i-want-to-get-off-trump-and-authoritarianism http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/37215-stop-the-world-i-want-to-get-off-trump-and-authoritarianism

All over the globe, including here in the US, there is a resurgence of muscular authoritarian politics. How that trend unfolds and is enforced varies country by country, but the core is recognizably neo-fascist, to a lesser or greater degree, often emerging from the extreme right wing. This rise of authoritarianism is as true in Turkey as it is in Russia, in the turbulent greater Middle East as it is in the Philippines -- and, of course, as it is in the Trump movement in America. To be sure, there are occasional left-wing strongmen as well, but these days, most of theautocratic rulers seem to congregate on the far-right edge of the political spectrum.

All over the globe, including here in the US, there is a resurgence of muscular authoritarian politics. How that trend unfolds and is enforced varies country by country, but the core is recognizably neo-fascist, to a lesser or greater degree, often emerging from the extreme right wing.

This rise of authoritarianism is as true in Turkey as it is in Russia, in the turbulent greater Middle East as it is in the Philippines -- and, of course, as it is in the Trump movement in America.

To be sure, there are occasional left-wing strongmen as well, but these days, most of theautocratic rulers seem to congregate on the far-right edge of the political spectrum.

It behooves those of us dedicated to the viability of democratic institutions to try tounderstand the genesis of this rising authoritarian movement in order to better counter its brutal programs and policies and its scary growth.

In this essay, I'll be focusing on what's happening in the US, and pointing to a commonality on the global scale.  

"Stop the World, I Want to Get Off"

The major changes taking place all over the world -- in technology, in medicine, in income inequality, in gender roles, in the law, in sexual mores, in world trade, and so on -- are coming at all of us with such rapidity that it's almost dizzying. American society likewise is undergoing these ground-breaking changes at near-warp speed.

The upcoming generation, especially those in their 20s and 30s, seems more comfortable in adapting to these rapid sociological/technological shifts. Older citizens, possibly more frightened by rapid change, often seek succor in the old-fashioned mores and verities and behaviors. Status quo ante as comfort food, so to speak.

Demagogues and would-be autocrats -- in the US, read: Trump -- play on that fear of rapid change, and promise a return to a (mostly fictional) quieter, less-chaotic time and pace, when everything and everybody kept to their ordained place. Those well-ordered societies didn't feel the need to deal with seismic shifts in demographic and economic trends or with issues arising from waves of new immigrants. 

The order-imposers, the police, were, if not universally respected, universally feared and obeyed, no questions asked. In today's cell-phone-camera world, tweeting millennials are demolishing that old-school paradigm.

The Leader on a White Horse

When societies seem to be spinning out of control, when the traditional center no longer holds, when citizens' frustrations and fears reach critical mass, the temptation arises to fall behind a leader promising a rescue by cracking heads and bringing rigid order to roiling societies: the stereotyped strongman on a white horse. 

In the 1930s in key countries, it was a Hitler in Germany, a Mussolini in Italy, a Stalin in the USSR, a Franco in Spain, et al. In our own time, it's a Putin in Russia, an Erdogan in Turkey, a Xi in China, a Thaksin in Thailand, a Mugabe in Zimbabwe, a Duterte in thePhilippines, an al-Sisi in Egypt -- and, our own homegrown demagogue in America, Donald J. Trump.  

It must be understood that these authoritarians often differ widely in their origins (Erdogan, for example, assumed power through elections) and methods of operation, degree of brutality, etc. Every society has a multiplicity of forces affecting its manner of governance. There is no one template that explains the various expressions of authoritarianism across the globe.

But there are enough similarities to draw some tentative conclusions.

* For example, there is often a strong religious component. Religion provides certainty, simple answers, a set of strict norms and social mores.

* There is often a dread fear of "The Other," outsiders, foreigners. Immigrants and minorities -- and women -- often bear the brunt of this fear.

* There often is a fear of change brought about by developments in science and technology. Many authoritarian rulers crack down on sources of information they can't easily control: the internet, the press, social media, etc. 

* Because reality is so frightening and frustrating, authoritarians invent their own realities. (Remember the George W. Bush adviser who justified theadministration's lies and arrogance with this assertion: "You are part of the old reality-based culture; we are an empire now; we make our own reality?")

* Those with authoritarian proclivities tend to look to a strong, domineering leader to carry them over the shoals of their disorienting confusions and their inchoate angers and frustrations. 

* These followers tend to see these charismatic leaders as generally flawless. What they assert is accepted as truth. And they don't tell lies. When the leader they trust is caught out having told lies, he is excused because his lie is in theservice of his justifiable agenda or is deemed excusable because his behavior is sanctioned by religious faith.

Hard-Wired for Authoritarianism

Conservatives have a "heightened psychological need to manage uncertainty," notes one social researcher quoted by John W. Dean in his insightful 2006 book Conservatives Without Conscience.

Authoritarianism and fundamentalism, you see, seem to provide a safe harbor, a simple "quiet" way in the midst of all the world's ambiguity and "noise," that helps in dealing with the frightening and contradictory cacophony outside the religion. There is good and there is evil, a right way and a wrong way, Revealed Truth and dangerous falsehood, you're with us or with our enemies, that sort of simplistic understanding of the world. "Gott mit Uns" -- God is on our side, so why should we compromise with or pay attention to those who do not believe in The Truth?

But, says Dean, in addition to the doctrinal underpinnings, something in the personality of many fundamentalist religious leaders, and their followers, may be working even more strongly: a built-in tendency toward authoritarianism.

He quotes from voluminous studies by social psychologist/researcher Bob Altemeyer, who -- after examining the attitude of tens of thousands of subjects in interviews and questionnaires -- concluded that "acceptance of traditional religious beliefs appear to have more to do with having a personality rich in authoritarian submission, authoritarian aggression, and conventionalism, than with the beliefs per se."

So keep this in mind when observing how primed-for-violence Trump supporters, egged on by The Donald himself, treat those opposed to their point of view. 

What Is to Be Done?

That Trumpian base, loaded with angry, frustrated, authoritarian-hungry citizens -- may hang with him, through thin and thin, all the way to November. It appears he was voicing a major truth months ago when he said he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and his polling numbers would not go down. These are true believers. 

Those die-hard Trump supporters seem impervious to traditional, logical attempts to change their minds, so, how can those of us who believe in old-fashioned liberal democracy make a dent in his support?

* The post-conventions Democratic plan appears to have abandoned those ordinary strategies dependent on logic and instead is taking dead-aim at traditional conservative ("moderate") Republicans who are appalled by their party's nominee and embarrassed to be associated with him. Maybe they can be peeled away for this one election to vote for Hillary Clinton or, if not that, to at least stay home on Election Day. 

* One would like to believe that eventually Trump will keep shooting himself in the foot to the point where he reaches a tipping point and down he goes. But we can't count on Trump doing the work for us.

* A further-out hypothesis: Trump will never accept "loser" status and he doesn't really want to have to do the hard work of being the president; he has tobe the victim of nefarious forces aligned against him. So he keeps on keeping on until he's dropped or loses, and he can blame those people who knifed him in theelectoral back. With his supporters in place, he can then remain the major domo of the extremist right, with his very own storm troopers.

* No, as Bernie Sanders reminded us, our current political-revolution battle is not only about who gets the most electoral and popular votes on November 8, but who is also willing to stay organized and push the revolution/reform ball forward to combat the authoritarian cohort and push them to the political sidelines. Unless we do that, our work will have been largely in vain as new, more-sophisticated Donald Trumps emerge to drag our democracy downward into the mud of bad history.

That's why the down-ballot voting is so important.  Retaking the Senate and House would be an enormous head start for progressives in the electoral/political battle.  But even if Trump and the other extremists are denied an electoral victory, the struggle continues on November 9.

Organize. Organize! ORGANIZE!

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Speakout Fri, 12 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Don't "Get Over It," Harness It! An Open Letter to Bernie Supporters http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/37214-don-t-get-over-it-harness-it-an-open-letter-to-bernie-supporters http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/37214-don-t-get-over-it-harness-it-an-open-letter-to-bernie-supporters

I share your frustration and your anger over the outcome of the Democratic (?) National Convention. I've had my share. There is a place for anger; but there is also a way to use it. Anger is power. The revolution launched by Senator Sanders has accomplished amazing results. The point is now to recognize the beauty and power of our momentum -- and, as Martin Luther King, Jr. says, harness our anger "under discipline," meaning convert it into determination. Let's think what that might look like now.

Dear friends,

I share your frustration and your anger over the outcome of the Democratic (?) National Convention. I've had my share. There is a place for anger; but there is also a way to use it. Anger is power. The revolution launched by Senator Sanders has accomplished amazing results. The point is now to recognize the beauty and power of our momentum -- and, as Martin Luther King, Jr. says, harness our anger "under discipline," meaning convert it into determination. Let's think what that might look like now.

Senator Sanders has announced that he will create a support base for progressive candidates for local and national offices. That is the perfect role for him. But our role is even bigger. Remember what President Johnson said when MLK urged him to give the nation a voting rights act: "That's a great idea. Now go out and make me do it." 

A prominent Republican, as he was bolting the party, said Donald Trump is not just a political mistake but "an indictment of our character." I would say it's an indictment of our culture.  The real revolution is not just political; it's cultural. As long as people are bombarded by 3,000-5,000 commercial messages a day (according to recent studies) telling us we're separate, material beings who need to plunder the Earth for satisfaction and fight one another for security, specters like Donald Trump will arise, and we will be fighting a rear-guard action to keep them out of power. We need a "new story" about humanity and our place in the universe.

The good news is a "new story" is being talked up in various circles. It's based squarely on two supports: the best of modern science and the perennial wisdom that has supported every human tradition, from Jesus to Gandhi.   Taken together, this story says we are not alone in the universe. The same human agency that's degrading the Earth can also restore it; the same humanity that's blowing up in violence all over the planet can also learn and practice nonviolence. Learning this story and how to use it, patiently and persuasively, to explain why we're against war and for a beloved community on a healthy planet should be part of every activist's toolkit today.

We now have the technologies to stay connected in ways that were never possible before. Great. Don't use them as a substitute for face-to-face relationships, but use them to, for example, start a discussion on strategy that we can all work on together, taking us from our present baffling but in some ways amazing situation all the way to the distant vision of peace and justice for all. A joint strategy doesn't mean everyone working on the same issue, but rather, as I see it, situating our issues on a progressive (in both senses) trajectory, starting from things that are hard but doable, to things that seem undoable now but will eventually appear as inevitable. It would certainly include what Joanna Macy calls "stopping the worst of the damage," which means the climate. We'll carry on with the creative blend of legal argumentation and downright obstruction we saw in the "kayaktivism" that kept Shell from drilling the Chukchi Sea last June -- but at the same time, do things that not only block the future we don't want, but build one we do.

I can see one trajectory for this that starts with establishing restorative justice as a norm in the nation's schools (it's already happening in more enlightened districts), then goes on to do the same for the prison system, and then we set our sights on the war system. All this would be supported by a steady drumbeat of explanation about human nature and our intimate relationship to one another and the planet.

Other trajectories would move similarly from achievable to apparently distant goals, all based on that common vision. Let's not get hung up on whether we should vote for Hillary Clinton or Jill Stein. From Occupy to the Bernie Sanders movement, we have shown what we're capable of. Now let's build on that momentum. It will be a lot of work, and yes, every now and then some risk and suffering, that can be kept to a minimum, with the right strategies. We need a greater awareness that we're all in this together; we need to do more long-range planning; and we have to find ways, to reach out to the opposition. The "Trump phenomenon" is a shocking revelation of the state of mind of millions of Americans. We could probably "defeat" them in an out-and-out political fight, but is that any foundation for a secure future?  In our kind of future, the political process itself will no longer be a fight, but what it once was (or was meant to be): a decision-making process among citizens who have learned to disagree within the framework of civil discourse.

I think this is going to require all our imagination, compassion, tact and courage; which is why we need our "secret weapon" -- a way to turn anger into determination and bitterness into optimism, that's empowering -- and justified.

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Speakout Fri, 12 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Using Violence to Achieve Political Aims http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/37194-using-violence-to-achieve-political-aims http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/37194-using-violence-to-achieve-political-aims

With incidents of political violence occurring on a frequent basis across the world, officials in the Obama administration repeatedly face a difficult question: Is it ever legitimate to use violence to achieve political aims? On July 19, 2016, State Department spokesman Mark Toner presented one answer. Today, "we would certainly want to caution anybody who thinks that violence is a plausible way to achieve any political aims," Toner stated. Hoping to discourage people from turning to violence, Toner insisted that the Obama administration opposed the use of violence in political affairs. "I think it's a pretty common dictate of ours to say that there's no military solution to any crises, political or otherwise," he noted.

With incidents of political violence occurring on a frequent basis across the world, officials in the Obama administration repeatedly face a difficult question: Is it ever legitimate to use violence to achieve political aims?

On July 19, 2016, State Department spokesman Mark Toner presented one answer. Today, "we would certainly want to caution anybody who thinks that violence is a plausible way to achieve any political aims," Toner stated. Hoping to discourage people from turning to violence, Toner insisted that the Obama administration opposed the use of violence in political affairs. "I think it's a pretty common dictate of ours to say that there's no military solution to any crises, political or otherwise," he noted.

Often, US officials make similar statements. When commenting on world events, officials regularly condemn political violence while they urge political leaders not to use force in political affairs.

"I think all of us in the world have learned that violence only leads to more violence; it's not a solution to anything," Secretary of State John Kerry stated on August 4, 2016.

Of course, US officials have also taken a different position. Throughout history, officials have continually employed violence to pursue their political objectives.

After 9/11, the Bush administration repeatedly resorted to force in global affairs. For example, the Bush administration employed violence in Afghanistan to achieve political change. Since the ruling Taliban regime refused to hand over Osama bin Laden, President Bush decided to invade the country and overthrow the Taliban. "We are going to rain holy hell on them," Bush proclaimed.

Likewise, the Bush administration applied a similar approach to Iraq. To overthrow Saddam Hussein, the Bush administration launched a major military attack against Iraq.

During the initial stages of the war against Iraq, US military forces killed tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers. "In other words, we had just been mowing them down as we're coming in," Bush explained.

Over the course of the war, US military forces killed countless more Iraqis. As the war unleashed a wave of sectarian violence that resulted in the deaths of 100,000 Iraqis, US military forces directed a lethal assault against Iraqis who resisted the occupation. "We did an awful lot of capturing and killing in Iraq for several years before it started to have a real effect," Gen. Stanley McChrystal explained.

In more recent years, the Obama administration has continued to employ violence in world affairs. Although officials such as John Kerry have insisted that violence is not a solution to anything, the Obama administration has relied on violence to pursue its political objectives.

In June 2016, President Obama turned to violence when he authorized the thousands of US military forces in Afghanistan to conduct military operations against the Taliban. Although he had declared in December 2014 that "our combat mission in Afghanistan is ending," Obama decided that military forces should continue to fight the Taliban.

Shortly after Obama made his decision, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest explained that the new authorities allow "US forces to be more proactive in supporting conventional Afghan forces as they take the fight to the Taliban." The decision "means, in some cases, offering close air support, or it means, in some cases, accompanying Afghan forces on the ground or in the air," Earnest noted.

The following month, Gen. John Nicholson provided more details. Speaking to the press, Nicholson explained that US military forces in Afghanistan were helping the Afghan government wage offensive military operations against the Taliban. Currently, "we're using our new authorities so that the Afghan Army can assume the offensive against the enemy in Maiwand District, Band-e-Timor area, which is a well known staging area," Nicholson said. "So it's offensive."

As the Obama administration escalated the military campaign against the Taliban, it also directed similar operations throughout the Middle East. Employing its military power in both Iraq and Syria, the administration waged a massive military assault against ISIS (also known as Daesh).

During the military campaign, the Obama administration used a variety of military tactics. Administration officials are taking advantage of "all of our awesome capabilities, from airstrikes to special forces," Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said on July 11, 2016.

The following month, President Obama provided additional emphasis. "Our air campaign continues to hammer ISIL targets." There have been "more than 14,000 strikes so far."

By waging such a massive military assault, the Obama administration has also directed a deadly blow against ISIS. As the State Department official Antony J. Blinken has repeatedly confirmed, the United States and its allies have killed tens of thousands of ISIS fighters.

Moreover, administration officials expect the ongoing military assault to result in more deaths. With the Obama administration now preparing to launch major attacks against ISIS in the cities of Raqqa and Mosul, administration officials acknowledge that the death toll will very likely increase. "And so if there's going to be an assault on Raqqa and Mosul, you're going to have unfortunately a lot more damage, you're going to have a lot more casualties," CIA Director John Brennan said.

As the Obama administration has begun preparing its next major offensive against ISIS, it has also provided another powerful signal of its decision to use violence in global affairs. In an escalation of the global war against terrorism that it inherited from the Bush administration, the Obama administration has proclaimed that it will simply kill anyone that it deems a threat.

Certainly, "the United States will continue to target and strike terrorist leaders everywhere in the world where they might threaten Americans or our interests and our friends," Ashton Carter said. "We'll continue to do that as we have demonstrated that we do."

Indeed, administration officials have made it clear that they will use violence to secure their many interests around the globe. Whether they sought to weaken the Taliban, eliminate ISIS or assassinate "terrorist leaders," they have concluded that they must use violence to achieve their global political objectives.

When administration officials caution against the use of violence in political matters, they implicitly reserve an exception for the United States. While they most likely want to see their political opponents refrain from using violence, administration officials repeatedly demonstrate their willingness to use violence to achieve their plans for the world.

"The United States will use military force, unilaterally if necessary, when our enduring interests demand it," the Obama administration has confirmed.

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Speakout Thu, 11 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
We Must Stop Consuming Blk (Black) Death http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/37182-we-must-stop-consuming-blk-black-death http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/37182-we-must-stop-consuming-blk-black-death

Eight days after the murder of Paul O'Neal, the footage from that day was released by the Independent Police Review Authority IPRA. Paul O’Neal was an 18-year-old blk man who was killed by the Chicago Police Department (CPD). The same council that dragged its feet for five years for accountability for Dante Servin, who murdered Rekia Boyd and still wasn't held accountable. The same council who told the loved ones of those killed by police that they can't speak for more than two minutes. IPRA is illegitimate and doesn't care about blk life. 

On Friday, August 5, the Chicago Police Department held "watch parties" of the murder of Paul O'Neal at CPD headquarters. Some Chicago organizers were invited to watch the death of their brother. They were invited to just have a chance to get more information for the base of their response. This is not the first time we have seen this. But look at the Laquan McDonald case, where the nation was replaying the footage of his murder on news stations and on social media. The consumption of blk death is not new; it goes all the way back to when the first slave boat was brought to Afrika.                  

The real fact is that the consumption of blk death is disgusting and shows us how the media continue to agree with the oppression of blk bodies being disposable. Not only has corporate media been in support of the consumption of blk death, but social media has been used as another tool to consume blk death. From the share button on Facebook to the retweet button on Twitter, it is really easy to share videos of blk people dying. Blk folk have had enough trauma already. From deeming blk children as older than they are (criminalization 101), to deeming all blk people as "savages" not worthy of thinking or having feelings for ourselves.

Sharing videos of blk death is not creating social change. It does not spread the word. It reminds blk folk like myself that the world is anti-blk. It reminds us that society deems our bodies as disposable, and at any moment, that any one of us can be gone.

When you share blk death, you are building up the tolerance of society to see more blk bodies being taken out like dirty trash. I believe that we should not being sharing videos of our siblings being killed because of the systematic oppression and trauma that comes along side that.

When we talk about the consumption of blk death and police violence, we also have to check ourselves. We should not be only upset that Laquan McDonald got shot 16 times. We shouldn't be caught up in that. One shot is enough to be upset. One stop-and-frisk is enough to be angry. If we do get caught up in that "they didn't have to shoot him 16 times" narrative, then the solution becomes more training for the police and more policing, which will never get the root cause of police violence. The solution is that the police are violent and they need to be abolished and replaced with radical community safety that does not involve policing or prisons

To Blk people, sharing videos of your siblings being killed is contributing to the trauma of our communities and people. We have to be gentle with ourselves. This is the modern-day picnic (pick-a-nigger) where blk bodies would be taken and lynched as racist white people smiled and made joy out of it. This is the same thing when the Masta's (Master's) children would watch as blk enslaved people get tied up and whipped. This is nothing new.

We know that our bodies are not disposable, so we have to take that with us as we continue to organize for social and global change. So in our circles and spaces, we need to make sure we meet people where they are in terms of political education. We must talk through what accountability looks like in our communities, and make sure that the victim(s) is centered in our talks about accountability.

The police do not keep us safe. Prisons do not keep us safe. We have to re-imagine this world where we are as racially inclusive. Where we make sure no one or their body is disposable. Where we have radical safety and where violence in our communities because of systemic oppression would not be answered with more violence by the state. It should not be acceptable that 38 percent of city budget goes to the police, while education is listed under "Other Departments" and our schools are closing.

It is not acceptable for the Chicago Police Department to have a black site for over 20 years in which they kidnapped and tortured more than 70,000 people. There is no such thing as "good policing" when the "bad police" aren't being held accountable to the people. There is no thing as "good policing" when it grow out of slave patrolling. There is nothing called good policing when police and prisons are making money and allowing corporations to make money off the backs of mostly blk and other people of color. 

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Speakout Wed, 10 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400