Saturday, July 29, 2017

#Philando Castile's Killer Got $48k And Walks Free While Protestor Is Charged With Felony #BLM

Do black lives matter in this country? You remember Philando Castile, one of the many victims of execution by police last year. Philando was shot in front of his girlfriend and her 4 year old daughter by Officer Jeronimo Yanez in St. Paul, Minnesota, then left to bleed out while they cuffed his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, the driver of the car.

Officer Yanez was awarded $48,000 in severance pay after being acquitted of all charges.

So who will go to jail following this egregious miscarriage of justice? Castile's cousin, Louis Hunter, might.

Hunter was one of thousands who protested the killing. Here, in his own words, is what happened next:

My name is Louis Hunter, and I could be the only person to serve jail time as a result of my cousin Philando Castile’s murder--while former officer, Jeronimo Yanez, walks free with a $48K severance check in his pocket.1 
I am a loving father of four, a landscaper, and an active member of United Church of God in Christ. Last year, I attended the I-94 protest to stand against police violence and demand justice for Philando. And, like many that night, I chose to leave of my own accord rather than risk arrest. I never threw anything at the riot police; I would never do that. That’s not me. But to my surprise, the next day, cops surrounded my truck and arrested me on felony riot charges, making claims about things that I never did. They impounded my truck, leaving me unable to work as a landscaper. And my family and I were evicted from our home, five days after the arrest.2 
Prosecutors let my cousin’s murderer go free, but are pursuing these harsh and cruel charges against me without any evidence. All I did was attend a protest. Clearly, these charges are an attempt to silence and punish dissent in response to a profound injustice. My case goes to trial on September 25th, and we don’t have much time to get the charges dropped. I’m asking you, please, will you stand in solidarity with me? 
Tell the Ramsey and Carver County Attorney offices: Drop the charges against Louis Hunter. A 10-year prison sentence for protest is not justice for Philando. 
The cops’ story has changed about three times since they arrested me. First, they said I threw a molotov cocktail. But when the evidence didn’t support their lie, they switched their claim and said I wielded a board against police officers. When they weren’t able to find evidence for that, they resorted to just alleging “riotous behavior.” 
The media isn’t even mentioning the hardship my family faces merely because I attended a protest. Philando is gone, without justice. And I could be gone too--on a 10-year bid--for being in the right place at the wrong time, just like my cousin. 
The prosecutor recently offered me a deal: plead guilty to gross misdemeanor riot, to be sentenced as a misdemeanor, including jail time. They thought it was a “generous offer,” but I refuse to plead guilty to something I didn’t do. They made that offer because their case is weak. I can’t agree to a charge that will set back everything I’ve worked for in my life: my business, a good place to live, providing for my family. 
That’s why we need to pressure the prosecutor to drop these charges before it’s too late. 
I didn’t do anything but stand up for justice. I don’t deserve to go to prison, while Philando’s murderer walks free. 
Sign the petition. 
Thank you for your support and solidarity,
-- Louis Hunter, and the Color Of Change team.
 1. "Cop who killed Philando Castile to be paid $48,500 in buyout," USAToday, 07-10-2017
2. "Support Louis Hunter,", 07-27-2017 
Castile and Reynolds were pulled over because police thought they "looked like" the suspects in a recent robbery. I am guessing that Hunter "looked like" suspects that threw things at police as thousands poured into the streets to protest following Officer Yanez's aquittal.

Similar to how 12 year old Tamir Rice "looked like" a dangerous man in a park with a (toy) gun. That injustice can never be undone -- despite the city of Cleveland's $6,000,000 payment to Rice's family.

If police aren't able to identify people any better than that they should all be fired.

When black lives do matter as much as white lives in this country, maybe they will be.

This man's sign refers to the fact that Castile was a popular school nutrition worker before his tragic death.

If police can't manage their fear any better than Officer Yanez -- and a host of others claiming they were scared as justification for outright murder -- they should all be fired.

The huge injustices visited on black children and their families every single day in my lifetime are a reasonable basis for fear. But the cure is not gunning people down in the streets, or harassing them with trumped up charges. 

The cure is justice. The cure is equal access to opportunities, affirmative action and reparations. The cure is accountability for white supremacy and its evils.

Every time police kill an innocent person of color, the world gets less safe -- for everyone.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Why Demonize Russia, What's Going On In Syria, Who's Really Funding ISIS

This is an interview I did with Bruce Gagnon of the Global Network Against Nuclear Power and Weapons in Space. I've been on Bruce's cable tv series "This Issue" in the past as a guest, but this time he asked me to do the interviewing.

Bruce is well-read and in contact with many peace activists around the planet, so his perspective on international affairs plus the current U.S. kleptocracy is valuable.

I enjoyed hearing from him and I think you will, too.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Is "Good German" Status Quo The Order Of Our Day? #Aegis9

Jason Rawn leading a Maine Peace Walk in 2014

Today's guest post by civil disobedient Jason Rawn was rejected by the Times Record. A daily paper local to General Dynamics' Bath Iron Works plant, the Times Record customarily publishes a monthly opinion column written by various Peaceworks members. In July the editor refused the submitted piece saying that drawing connections between the present day and the Holocaust is "a bit much." But is it? You be the judge.

Are We The "Good Germans" Now?  
by Jason Rawn 
I'm not sure why, but the bagpipes before the Red Sox game against Toronto over the Independence Day Weekend got me thinking about international law and whether it affects us locally in Midcoast Maine. International law and solidarity help motivate people around the world to work together toward peace and justice. International law, including the Nuremberg Principles, has been a significant motivator of three groups of activists who have demonstrated at BIW for peace and conversion of the so-called "permanent war economy" over the decades.  
On Easter Sunday, March 31, 1991, 5 activists with the Plowshares movement were arrested for "monkey-wrenching" US warmaking at BIW. (Plowshares actions are well-planned nonviolent direct actions that have taken place around the world against warmaking. They often incorporate candles, prayer and other elements of Catholic worship.)  
The 1991 Plowshares action at BIW consisted of hammering and pouring blood on the cruise missile launch systems of the Aegis-equipped USS Gettysburg. They left behind a statement "against the American enslavement to war at the Bath Iron Works." Citing the deaths of thousands of Iraqi people, they left an indictment charging Bush, Cheney, the National Security Council, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff with war crimes. 
 According to the book Swords Into Plowshares: Nonviolent Direct Action for Disarmament, Peace, and Social Justice, after spending nearly two hours in the shipyard and on the warship, the five turned themselves in and were arrested. "After rejecting unsecured bond in court on April 1, all five were released unconditionally on April 3 pending trial by the state of Maine on charges of criminal trespass. Without explanation, the state decided against prosecuting them, and charges were dismissed one day before their scheduled trial."

Jason in straw hat abut to be arrested with other Zumwalt 12 members

Over the past year or so, I've risked arrest and have been arrested at the last two "christenings" of General Dynamics’ warships. Despite the fact that my fellow demonstrators and I were working to uphold international law, those who stood trial were found guilty of "obstructing the public way" by a jury of our peers in our 3-day "Zumwalt 12" civil resistance trial last February. We had been arrested in Washington Street outside the June 18, 2016 demonstration at the christening of the USS Michael Monsoor, one of three $7 billion Zumwalt first-strike destroyers slated to be made at BIW. (We perpetrators have since contributed over 300 hours of court-mandated community service throughout Maine.)

Aegis 9 outside the Bath Iron Works shipyard of General Dynamics April 1, 2017

Last April Fools Day, nine of us (The "Aegis 9") were arrested in the snow and slush during a nonviolent protest at the christening of the USS Thomas Hudner, an Aegis first-strike destroyer. This year's arrests came 27 years almost to the day after the 1991 Plowshares action. It remains to be seen whether charges will be dropped right before trial this time around. Judge Matthews, Justice Billings, and the prosecution all made it clear that jail is a possibility for some defendants if found guilty by their peers on the jury. This multi-day trial is likely to be in either September or November.
 Will international law hold any sway in the Aegis 9 trial, or will a "Good German"-style status quo win the day? 
Good Germans were those who followed Nazi orders and made possible the bureaucracy and infrastructure of the Holocaust. The Nuremberg Principles were created, in part, to make it clear that individuals are, indeed, responsible for their actions: supposedly, there's no "just following orders" defense. The Nuremberg Principles resulted from the trial of over 1,600 Nazis beginning in 1950. This brief charter of seven principles of international law states, among other things, that the planning and the preparation for wars of aggression are crimes against peace. 
Graphic by 5W Infographics of data from the Pentagon's annual Base Structure Report, 2015

Looking at the proliferation of US war bases around the world - over 800 - and the fact that both the Aegis and the Zumwalt destroyers which dock at some of those bases are first-strike weapons, it's easy to consider continuous US military intervention as war of aggression, easy to consider US foreign policy as criminal. But what about the planning and preparation by General Dynamics for this continuous war of aggression, which is essentially their business model? At what pay scale (if any) could employees of weapons manufacturers be held liable for their livelihood-related crimes against peace?

Jason was arrested April 1 dressed as "Angas" King, Maine's General Dynamics loving senator.
Are either of our multimillionaire US senators - both of whom have accepted tens of thousands of dollars in campaign sponsorship contributions specifically from General Dynamics, not to mention impressive sums from other war profiteer corporations - accomplices in these crimes against peace?
I was arrested April 1 dressed as Senator Susan Collins displaying her corporate sponsorships.

And what about us taxpayers who pay for the warships themselves? Do we, as a whole, know that over half of the discretionary portion of the federal budget pays for war?
And do we taxpayers also pay the $21.2 million-a-year salary of General Dynamics Corp's CEO, Phebe Novakovic?

(Over $5 million of that compensation package was a bonus!) 
 Once you start looking, it's hard to miss the significant connections between global warfare, our local community and economy, the health of our rivers, cuts in human needs spending, and even just the view from the bridge as you take in the rotating exhibit of warships as you cross.
Nuremberg Principle IV states that the fact that a person acts pursuant to order of a government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.

We have choices as humans, as workers, as taxpayers, as citizens, as Earthlings.

We must recognize this. And act (or not act) accordingly. At least that's what they thought in the direct aftermath of German fascism.
Jason Rawn is a member of PeaceWorks. He lives in Bath, Maine.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Laughing At Tyrants

Is ridicule an effective tool against kleptocracy? 

In a system of government by, of, and for thieves is there any point in petitioning the corrupt? Going through official channels like elections, phone calls, letters and meetings with lawmakers has taken up a lot of our time but changed little as the engines of propaganda churn out manufactured consent for our downward slide.

In a landmark case from the tumultuous early days of the current regime, retired librarian Desiree Fairooz was arrested for laughing at a lie told in the U.S. Senate's hearing to confirm Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III.

Sessions, who claims people think he's racist because his middle name (and that of his pappy and grandpappy) honor a Confederate general, was described in the hearing as someone whose "extensive record of treating all Americans equally under the law is clear and well-documented." As Senator Shelby of Alabama read from scripted remarks in halting tones, a faint "ha ha" can be heard in the background. Then, as Fairooz is dragged from the courtroom, my own Senator Susan Collins can be heard groveling to "my friend and colleague, Senator Jeff Sessions." (Collins, who has built her career on the lie that she's a plucky independent like Margaret Chase Smith, has been quick to grovel to the new regime.)

"It's demoralizing what our criminal justice system happens [sic] when we just talked about Alton Sterling's case," said CNN's legal expert Mark O'Mara, referring to the case of a black victim of police violence in Louisiana whose killers, officers Howie Lake II and Blane Salamoni, were not charged. Both had been investigated -- and cleared by their own department -- for using excessive force in the past, and Sterling was not the first black man to be shot by Lake.

The rule of law is in shreds, black lives don't matter to police or our criminal justice system, and senators fall all over themselves to praise a blatantly racist candidate for the highest legal office in the land. What to do?

Ridicule may be our best resort, because it hastens the regime's loss of the consent of the governed.

Some of us are old enough to remember when the Smothers Brothers comedy team was fired for making fun of Richard Nixon's war in Vietnam. They sued NBC and won. Nixon was impeached, and the Vietnam war lurched to a close.

None of us are old enough to remember when Aesop, an ancient Greek slave, made tyrants ridiculous by telling stories where they were silly animals. His stories also made fun of the common people: a frog who ridiculed a dumbly passive Log King regards the Stork King sent by Zeus as an admirable replacement in the William de Morgan illustration above (Public domain via Wikimedia Commons). The frog's goofy expression appears innocent of the fact that storks eat frogs.

Desiree Fairooz is well aware that Sessions and his ilk eat up the lives of people like Alton Sterling.

Fairooz shouted that Sessions is evil in the ruckus she caused while being removed after what she has described as chortling. She was convicted in a jury trial of disrupting the hearing, but the sentencing judge threw the case out saying the jury was improperly instructed to convict her solely on the basis of her barely audible laugh.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Glorifying Drones And Recruiting New Operators Propaganda Effort Has Many Helpers

One of thousands of squares commemorating war victims in the Drone Quilt Project.
Art by Leeza Vinogradov

I'll admit here that I gave up on National "Public" Radio some years ago, around the time they began running promos for their agribusiness and other corporate sponsors. NPR's coverage of the Iraq war was so carefully tailored to show the view through approved windows that I began to lose respect for their journalistic integrity. More like the New York Times and The New Yorker magazine, really, puffing Obama while panning Republicans, signalling their fealty to the other corporate war party.

This week I invited others concerned about the rampant killing of civilians by flying killer robots to contact NPR objecting to their recent interview with drone contractor and author Brett Velicovich. 

Self-billed as a drone warrior, Velicovich continues to profit from using flying killer robots to attack others who couldn't possibly fight back as the "warrior" attacking them is remote and often thousands of miles away. Such courage! Such valor! (Such bullshit.)

The propaganda in favor of weaponized drones is pervasive and well funded. Veterans for Peace past president Leah Bolger posted this item to a no-drones listserv I'm on:

The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum is having a huge 8 month exhibit on drones.  They asked to display the Drones Quilt Project and I had reserved 6 quilts for them, but at the last minute they said they didn't have any room.  I talked to the curator -- Nick Mottern talked to him, Chris Antal talked to him -- but they wouldn't change their minds.  They said they were just exhibiting the history of drones (all kinds) and that they only had a couple of pictures of Predators, and that they didn't glorify them.  But then I noticed that they had scheduled this: 
BOOK LAUNCH Drone Warrior: An Elite Soldier's Inside Account of the Hunt for America's Most Dangerous Enemies By Brett Velicovich and Christopher S. Stewart 
Tuesday, June 27 (during Members Night) Lutnick Theater, $10 general admission; Free for members 
For nearly a decade, Brett Velicovich used drones to take down the world’s deadliest terrorists. He shared his harrowing experiences with Pulitzer Prize–winning writer Christopher S. Stewart. Hear them discuss their captivating book.
The Drones Quilt Project expanded on their coverage of this propaganda effort in a post noting that the museum with no room to display an art project based on civilian victims of U.S. militarized drones did manage to find space for Lady Gaga's drone dress.

Lady Gaga flies onstage via drones

Would you be surprised to know that the New York Times review of the museum exhibit mentioned the victims of drones exactly once, in the headline? "Drones Kill, Yes, But They Also Rescue, Research, and Entertain" was their sanitizing contribution to the practically non-existent national debate on the ethics of endless warfare via remote control bombing by robots.

Data compiled by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism

Currently, the corporate media would have us very, very scared that the demogogue with bad hair has his finger on the red button of nuclear destruction. News outlets like the NYT thought it was great when Obama ramped up the budget for nuclear weapon research and development, just as they thought it was great when he became the president with ten times more drone blood on his hands than his predecessor.

A tiny bit of corporate media attention is given to the PTSD that drone operators -- presumably operators less tough than warrior Velicovich -- suffer from after viewing the "bug splat" of civilians who died when they pushed their buttons.

This is how the manufactured consent for endless wars at taxpayer expense is maintained: by controlling the information available to the public.

Here's the museum's self-description to provide the flavor of this sort of propaganda effort:
New York City’s Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum Complex is an educational and cultural non-profit institution centered on the aircraft carrier Intrepid. The mission of the Museum is to promote the awareness and understanding of history, science and service through its collections, exhibitions and programming in order to honor our heroes, educate the public and inspire our youth. [emphasis mine] Join us for a dynamic, interactive and educational journey for all ages.
"Inspire our youth" is code for military recruiting. Or maybe it's code for recruiting youth in poverty, and inspiring youth in the upper classes to pursue higher education with an eye to contributing to the high tech killing. If successful, they could write a book and go on tour to display their courage.

Recruiting in Chicago got a big boost last week when Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama's former chief of staff, announced that no one would get their high school diploma until they were either signed up for a school or other program, employed -- or joined the military.

This strikes me as grounds for a whopping law suit and I expect the kickass Chicago Teachers Union will be one of those bringing legal action on behalf of the students. 

Managing information is one thing, but losing a relative to PTSD or suicide is another. The most fascinating actual news of the week was this article in Mondoweiss reporting on a study that linked combat deaths of U.S. military personnel to swing states that voted for the demagogue with bad hair in the last election. Because that candidate falsely represented himself as a non-interventionist, researchers Douglas Kriner and Francis Shen examined voting patterns and published "Battlefield Casualties and Ballot Box Defeat: Did the Bush-Obama Wars Cost Clinton the White House?"

In other words, running as a pro-war candidate may have alienated voters poor enough to actually know someone who came home in a box.

Now that the U.S. has robots to do some of the killing, the percentage of active duty military is extremely small, like 1% of the population. This helps corporate media and other propaganda organs to hype war as glorious. 

Source: PTSDInsight "The Veteran Suicide Crisis"

Tell that to the kids in my family whose veteran dad recently killed himself with a gun in their bathroom after suffering for years from combat-induced PTSD.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Losing The Consent Of The Governed

New Jersey beach art by Larry and Tom (photo: Dave Bobal)

What typically happens after a regime loses the consent of the governed? is a question those in power should be asking themselves right about now.

State parks and beaches were closed over the long 4th of July holiday weekend in New Jersey and Maine because both states have been put into emergency shutdown mode by their governors.

A budget impasse in Maine foundered on the unlikely rocks of education spending as a referendum vote last November raised taxes on the wealthy to directly benefit K-12 schools, a measure the legislature hasn't been able to enact. So my fat cat governor gleefully shut down most state services (except law enforcement -- draw your own conclusions).

It was a relatively cool weekend and I'm sure people found somewhere outdoors to go in Vacationland.

New Jersey on the other hand, wow. In an epic display of heartless entitlement, their fat cat governor shut down state beaches while temperatures and humidity soared. 

Then, defying reason, he and his own family basked on a fabulously deserted state beach. And lied about it when photos surfaced. Then gave a bunch of boorish "let them eat cake" excuses when caught in the lie, including "they're not governor" as the reason why taxpayers couldn't bring their families to the state beach.


And then came the memes. 

This one is based on the final scene from the disaster movie Planet of the Apes.

Both governors strongly resemble the corpulent couch potatoes in dystopian future flick Wall-E.

I never saw the one I had in mind, so here is my crude attempt to render it:

Maine's governor and New Jersey's governor could be mistaken for each other. They're both large guys with jowly faces who sometime vie with one another to see who can make the crudest, stupidest public statements.

They are the face -- and belly -- of kleptocracy. In government by thieves, they steal on behalf of millionaire and billionaires, and feather their own nests in the process.

It's their job to use corporate media to spread thin justifications for kleptocracy. Not much of anybody even pretends to believe these words except the people who utter them.

I saw this in a 4th of July essay by rogue journalist Caitlin Johnstone:
Today America celebrates its liberation from the shackles of the British Crown and the beginning of its transition into corporatist oligarchy, which is a lot like celebrating your lateral promotion from housekeeping to laundry staff. 
Fireworks will be set off, hot dogs will be consumed, and a strange yellow concoction known as Mountain Dew will be imbibed by patriotic high-fiving Yankees eager to celebrate their hard-fought freedom to funnel their taxes into corporate welfare instead of to the King.
This made sense to me because lately I've been wondering if anybody studies history any more.

Don't governors who mock constituents by flaunting their own privilege worry about what happens when the mob turns on them?

Maybe they're aware of the threat but they think heavily militarized law enforcement can protect them. Because police repression is so effective against sharks. Right?

Saturday, July 1, 2017

More Concerned With The Tone Of Someone’s Message Than You Are With The Message Itself? #MillsVsPenobscots

Chloe Cekada and Iris SanGiovanni of Greater Portland SURJ disrupt Maine Attorney Janet Mills
calling for her to respect Native rights to protect the Penobscot River and its many life forms.

Guest post from Sass Linneken, program coordinator for Resources for Organizing and Social Changewho had just returned from a Maine People's Alliance event on June 29, 2017 (MPA is a "progressive" Democratic Party lobbying organization).

Musings on Maine’s Democratic Party, white feminism, and how white men take up space:
I went to the Resistance Rising summit hosted by MPA tonight and came away with some thoughts I need to roll out before going to sleep.

#1) I get anxious when I’m going into crowds, and anxiety is for the birds.

#2) The Democratic party is in no way leading anything resembling resistance at this point.

#3) The Democrats are having a difficult time realizing that taking a paternalistic/tone-policing attitude toward people they view as disruptive is not helping them to galvanize their base, it’s doing the opposite.

Villainizing disrupters is supremacist, and it completely negates the truths that exist within the disruption, for instance, the very fact that political disruption is a small thing compared to whatever issue is at the root of the disrupters’ cause.

***Case in point: Disrupting Janet Mills might feel egregious to people who support Mills, but that disruption is not going to kill her, or take her self-determination from her. On the flip-side of that coin, her refusal to support the Penobscots instead of lead the charge to steal their water rights and redraw the boundaries of their reservation when they hold less than 1% of the land they once did *will* impact their livelihoods and impact their ability to self-determine their own futures.

Letter found by Community Water Justice organizer Nickie Sekera in her son Luke's
pocket. Luke just graduated from middle school and is already a seasoned water protector.

Refusing to revisit the standards for justification in state-sanctioned police violence when there has been a drastic increase in police shooting fatalities *will* result in avoidable deaths, particularly of those who don’t look or live like Janet Mills. Rudeness in messaging should really be the least of worries in this context.***

Luke Sekera speaking at a previous event where Mills was confronted about her attack on
the rights of the Penobscot people to protect their water against industrial polluters the state of Maine protects.
Luke is being protected by Elizabeth Ann Mitchell, a Penobscot water protector.
#4) A candidate should not get a free pass if she’s a woman because she has it harder than her male counter-parts on the campaign trail or in office, and to suggest that the only reason she’s being held accountable is because she’s a woman is as sexist as the perceived sexism in the allegation to begin with.

#5) Saying that a candidate deserves our respect because she’s a champion for women’s rights when she is simultaneously engaging in an agenda that hurts women of color is the epitome of white feminism.

It’s not only hella problematic in its analysis of women’s rights, it’s detrimental to any perceived effort of resistance. To the contrary, it’s the very upholding of the systems and structures liberals/progressives claim to want to smash.

#6) If you’re a cisgender, able-bodied white guy, you’ve had the floor long enough. Shut the hell up.

The fact is, if your platform is not centering and considering the needs of PoC, you’re doing it wrong.

Trump was no accident, and if you think his agenda is egregious, it’s time to look in the mirror and ask yourself how you are complicit in his getting to where he’s at. And I don’t say that sitting on any kind of a pedestal, I’m a white person on a life-long learning curve.

All I’m saying is if you’re more concerned with the tone of someone’s message than you are the message itself, you are more a part of the problem than the solution, and that should matter to you if you want things to change.