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Ferguson peacemakers–No Justice Without Peace

By: jeanine4truth Thursday October 30, 2014 9:26 am

Note: The Grand Jury is expected to make an announcement in the Mike Brown case any day now. Supporters of Officer Darren Wilson anticipate violence from the protesters, and the Don’t Shoot Coalition expects violence from the police and a declaration of ‘open season’ on communities of color and political dissenters.

By : Jeanine Molloff

The search for ‘peace makers’ in the Michael Brown tragedy has revealed an activist community more complex than the vapid, two dimensional representation seen on corporate media.

Covering the events here on the ground in Ferguson and the surrounding St. Louis region is akin to performing surgery on a flesh wound and finding a malignancy. The cancers of racism and police brutality have metastasized from Fallujah to Ferguson, and inspired a renewed call for global justice. Oppressed people from Gaza to Hong Kong have sent messages of support to protesters in Ferguson. During this investigation, one thing was clearly evident—there can be no peace without justice.

As the corporate press continues to focus on teargas, rubber bullets and looting—the deeper story focusing on ingrained racism, police brutality, and blatantly unjust laws, is treated as a curious anecdote. In addition to these problems; we have a scenario familiar to the protesters—namely the ‘leaking’ of evidence aimed to vilify Michael Brown and support his police killer.

Illegal ‘leaked’ evidence aimed to trivialize protests… and prejudice juries…

Now that detailed information about the Michael Brown shooting has ‘leaked’ to various news outlets, (ie. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The New York Times, The Atlantic and the Washington Post); the pundits are ready to declare that no indictment of Officer Darren Wilson is necessary. Based on the shooter’s police report and the autopsy conducted by St. Louis County—the mainstream media has concluded that Officer Wilson’s story is supported by the same leaked information. A CNN commentator complained that the protesters are still in the streets, in spite of the evidence—all with the exasperated tone of a woman being kept from her mani-pedi.

The fact that the police report and the autopsy were confidential information restricted to the St. Louis County Prosecutor’s Office and the Grand Jury—is irrelevant to the pundits—the evidence supports the police officer—or does it?   First of all, the leaks are illegal and clearly intended to prejudice any jury pool, in Wilson’s favor. Secondly, the evidence from the autopsy supports the story that there was a struggle between Brown and Wilson—nothing else. I obtained the copy of the official autopsy and it can be viewed here.   (

Contrary to the exasperation of helmet hair broadcasters; the evidence of ongoing police brutality and suspension of civil liberties remains a serious concern to all but the corporate media.

Medical examiner contradicts pundits…

Dr. Judy Melinek was one of the forensic experts the St. Louis Post-Dispatch interviewed. She took the paper to task for misrepresenting her comments. Dr. Melinek explained to MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell that her comments had been taken out of context.

“I’m not saying that Brown going for the gun is the only explanation. I’m saying the officer said he was going for the gun and the right thumb wound supports that,” Melinek. “I have limited information. It could also be consistent with other scenarios. That’s the important thing. That’s why the witnesses need to speak to the grand jury and the grand jury needs to hear all the unbiased testimony and compare those statements to the physical evidence.” Source : (

Whether you believe the family of Michael Brown, or the supporters of Officer Wilson; one thing becomes clear—the early suppression of evidence, the tacit disrespect and brutality of police, and the battleground denial of civil liberties by Ferguson, St. Louis County and Governor Jay Nixon, speaks to a political culture of repression and police lawlessness.

Not since Occupy, has such a public display of police abuse been witnessed against anyone daring to question the police and their authority.   So, in order to identify the peace makers; an examination of false or tepid peace makers is needed.

False peace maker …the Police….

During this entire saga, press organizations continued to assume that abusive police practices were limited to the Ferguson Police department. That was not the case here. The beige shirted police in media photos, bursting with civil liberties violations—was St. Louis County Police.

Additionally, the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Association) filed a federal lawsuit against Ferguson, St. Louis County and Highway Patrol Superintendent Ronald Replogle.  The lawsuit challenges police policies which criminalize any recording of police.  Police have been accused of arresting both citizens and media groups attempting to record incidents.

Though the Ferguson Police department has a long history of abusive practices hailing back from the Jim Crow era, and the officer who killed Michael Brown—was from the Ferguson force; the entire situation in Ferguson became the official property of the St. Louis County Police in October coinciding with the Don’t Shoot Coalition’s Ferguson October. Ferguson Police Chief Jackson called St. Louis County and requested they take over security duties as of October 3rd. (Source :   Since St. Louis County has taken the driver’s wheel, protester arrests continue to be rife with civil rights violations. Ferguson police, following County police orders; tweeted that protesters were arrested for ‘noise violations’, ‘resisting arrest’, ‘failure to comply’, and ‘language to incite violence.’ (Source :   Charges were based on the arbitrary judgment of the police officer.

The more disturbing charges aka…’failure to comply,’ and using ‘language to incite violence,’ pose a legal problem for police. St. Louis University Law Professor Alan Howard explained the ‘inciting language’ statute applies only if the language results in actual violence. The ‘inciting language must also be recorded by authorities, subsequently this charge is very difficult to successfully convict in court. Professor Howard added that non-inciting language which is insulting or critical of police, is protected under the 1st amendment. (Source :

As of October 26th 2014, the PEN America Center is demanding the US Justice Department investigate 52 allegations of 1st amendment suppression of media freedoms by multiple local police departments, including St. Louis County Police. Unconstitutional practices used by police against the press included denied access to events, using flashing lights aimed at cameras to hinder photographers, and threats of assaults against reporters and photographers; culminating in 21arrests—all for the crime of journalism.

A major concern in the PEN America Center complaint is the extreme military force used by police departments in response to protests. By now, the photos of local police using tear gas, rubber bullets, pepper spray, and the LRAD sound cannon, has become the face of Ferguson to the international community. We have become, Gaza on the Mississippi.

Crisis Response Team…DOJ failing to crack down on police brutality…

DOJ’s Crisis Response Team is here to broker some kind of settlement between what are in reality—warring factions. The CRT team attempts to present each side as an equal stakeholder, but the Ferguson Mayor and police department know once DOJ leaves—everything returns to the status quo. The high probability of blowback from the police onto Blacks living in Ferguson and surrounding areas remains the giant unseen elephant in the room.

Mo. State Law granting police a ‘license to kill’…

Mo. Interpretation of ‘fleeing felon rule’ Though the Supreme Court of the United States restricted the previous ‘fleeing felon rule’ in the 1985 Tennessee v. Garner ruling;–Missouri standards on the use of lethal force–are beyond lax. Basically police in Missouri—have a ‘license to kill.’ The Missouri statute permits the use of deadly force even if the suspect does not present a similar threat.  Essentially if the officer ‘believes’ the suspect has merely attempted to commit a felony and also believes there is no other way to effect the arrest—deadly force is legally sanctioned.

So, if an officer wants an excuse to use deadly force, they merely have to state a ‘reasonable belief’ that the suspect attempted a felony—and they can legally kill.   Later the officer can state that there was no other way to make the arrest.  The suspect does not have to present any immediate deadly threat—they just have to be hard to catch– minus bullets.  Source : (

Missouri’s standard listed below in the ‘legalese’ can be found at this link.   (Source :

To add further insult to injury; Missouri does provide access to such statutes—for a fee.

Section 1033—providing military equipment and training..

. Not only is this program unecessary—it is insulting to anyone who believes in democracy. Section 1033 provides ‘gently used’ military equipment (including MWRAP armoured vehicles), and the same military training received by soldiers sent to Iraq , Afghanistan or Gaza. Section 1033 has been expanded to grant cold cash to police departments, so they can buy new military arms. (Source: It’s a cash cow for arms manufacturers. We can’t afford health care for little Johnny—but the police get a big shiny tank.

5 Second Rule…

For the members of the public who have been living in a cave the past 70+ days; the 5 second rule permits peaceable protest providing you never stop moving. If you stop beyond 5 seconds—then you risked arrest for..’failure to disperse.’(Source :

’5 Second Rule arrests were also made for walking too slowly, or pacing back and forth in a small area, praying, reporting news, holding a public meeting and teaching people about their rights. Police systematically ‘kettled’ protesters into ‘assembly lines’ while barking orders to ‘keep moving’, or face arrest.

The 5 second rule was thankfully struck down in a preliminary injunction by U.S. District Judge Catherine D. Perry, on October 8th. The court order was in response to a series of ACLU requests to declare this procedure an undue denial of 1st amendment rights. Judge Perry denied the first request based on nothing but— the word of police– that protesters had been granted ‘designated areas’ to gather and rest. ACLU employee (and Plaintiff) Mustafa Abdullah spoke to various officials who stated they knew nothing about such a ‘safe designated area.’

Next, the police created a “Protester Assembly Zone”, clear from threat of arrest—but it was isolated from water access, restrooms and any media staging areas, all in the 100 degree heat. This ‘Protester Assembly Zone’ was no safe haven, as protesters kept tweeting that they were facing imminent arrest for ‘standing still’ an entire 5 seconds.

On ACLU’s second motion, Judge Perry held that the ’5 second rule’ violated the 1st amendment and due process rights of protesters, because of arbitrary selective enforcement. Those arrested were not the individuals looting or committing acts of violence. It was noted by the ACLU that hundreds of individuals were arrested since the Brown shooting, many for nothing but…’failure to disperse.’

It was unclear who came up with this little ditty. St. Louis County Police spokesman Lt. Jeff Burk was unable to find any documents tracing the origin of the ’5 Second Rule.’

Gov. Jay Nixon’s proposed Ferguson Commission…another zero

October 21st, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon proposed another study group. His ‘Ferguson Commission’ will investigate the possible causes of public unrest and make empty recommendations. There is no mention of police brutality or any aim to instigate reforms. Lipstick on a pig would be an improvement over this vapid plan. (Source :

Now the real peace makers …. The Don’t Shoot Coalition…

One thing the protests groups have consistently stated is the demand for equal justice before the law. Calls for ending police brutality and police lawlessness continue unabated. An unusual group—namely the ‘Don’t Shoot Coalition’ has emerged to demand accountability and transparency in law enforcement. This coalition’s very existence defies the journalistic stenography of most mainstream media, which continually portrays the protesters as a bunch of ‘thugs’, ‘looters,’ and outside anarchist-provocateurs.

The ‘Don’t Shoot Coalition’ is diverse and combines the efforts of multiple individuals and some 50 groups. The young protesters at the head of this battle including Ashley Yates, Tef Poe and Tory Russell, have allied themselves with Veterans For Peace, The Advancement Project, ACLU St. Louis Chapter, United for Peace &Justice, Organization for Black Struggle, Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, HandsUpUnited, Don’t Shoot Coalition, National Lawyers Guild,, SEIU, AFT (American Federation of Teachers-St. Louis), The Clergy Coalition, a Holocaust survivor and others. The ages of coalition forces range from 10 to 90. Diverse religious leaders represented Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Humanism.

Like Occupy before them, this group faces the daily threat that they are being monitored by local, state and federal agencies. This fact alone only demonstrates how far our government has strayed from an actual democracy.  Though there is tension between the young leaders on the front lines in Ferguson and the older activists—the level of teamwork is impressive.

Letter of Demands to DOJ from Don’t Shoot Coalition…

A plan of action was crafted by the Coalition during weeks of intense discussion. All stakeholders shared in the development of what can only be called a policy statement. The final letter was written by Attorneys John Chasnoff of the ACLU/St. Louis branch and Denise Lieberman of the Advancement Project, upon acceptance by the group. The letter proposes police reforms at the local, county, state and federal levels, designed to ensure accountability, transparency and fairness in policing.  This is the policy the DOJ should have created.

The recommendations in the letter from the Don’t Shoot Coalition letter to DOJ were drawn from the following legal and civil liberties groups: – –the Center for Popular Democracy –Color of Change –Don’t Shoot Coalition –“A Unified Statement of Action to Promote Reform and Stop Police Abuse ( Below are some key reforms listed in the letter.

Federal reforms …

…provision of a national database of police shootings, excessive force and deaths while in custody, made available to the public with privacy protections in force; … immediate divestment of federal anti-drug grant money for departments abusing power using racial profiling; …reinvestment in community controlled policing; …support for the End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA); …enactment of a National Use of Force Policy with mandated use at both state and local levels; …enactment of strict limits on asset seizures; …enactment of limits on transfer of military equipment granted under the Section 1033 program; …provision of strict guidelines which ensure that Section 1033 military equipment is not used against non-violent protesters; …an end to the Section 1033 federal requirement that demands military weaponry be used within a year or returned; …en end to the Byrne Program that incentivizes arrests.  (Source :  DOJ Policy Letter     )

State Reforms…

One of the most important State Reforms listed in this letter is the demand for …”uniform and updated Use of Force Policies.  Missouri has one of the most lax standards for ‘use of lethal force’ in the nation. Missouri basically ignores the 1985 Supreme Court ruling in Tennessee v. Garner  (Source:

Additional state reforms demand the creation of a federal ‘best practices’ mandate which enumerates federal standards to leverage on states. Specifics include mandatory training requirements on cultural sensitivity, interacting with the mentally ill, responding to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, and responding to officer misconduct.  Effective communication, dialogue with affected communities, and de-escalation skills are identified as areas of critical need.  Trained advocates for special-needs populations are requested to give feedback on policies and actual police actions. ‘Detailed and accurate’ racial profiling data is mandatory, which includes ‘pedestrian stops’ (aka…’Stop & Frisk), cause of action, and a series of ‘carrots and sticks’ to incentivize compliance.  Officers must carry malpractice insurance for misconduct.

Reforms demanded for St. Louis County…

The letter also crafted the following reforms for all of St. Louis County:

…creation of a County-Wide Civilian Oversight Board, representing all stakeholders, with the powers to access all evidence in problem cases,  make substantive policy recommendations on police discipline, training and individual incidents; …demand the consolidation of all County departments; …and form a Truth & Reconciliation Commission vested with the power to grant reparations to police brutality victims.

The Truth & Reconciliation Commission is long overdue. Though the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has yet to report on any recent ‘necklacing’—the history of Dred Scott, lynchings and Jim Crow remain a painful legacy.

Munincipal Reforms …

…body cameras on all police as articulated by Drone Free St. Louis; …Signed consent forms or videos,  for any searches translated into multiple languages for the immigrant community; …mandatory provision of receipts after any encounter which include reason for the stop, officer name and badge number; …mandatory diversity of police force which reflects racial makeup of community.

Ferguson October…time of resistance….

Beginning the weekend of October 10th; the Don’t Shoot Coalition sponsored ‘Ferguson October.’ Part protest, part street party; the events began on Friday the 10th marching on the office of St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch in a rain soaked sea of umbrellas.

Later that week, protesters were arrested for smashing pumpkins in a symbolic act of civil disobedience.  The pumpkins were inscribed in marker with the words, ‘de-militarization’, ‘lies’, and ‘racism.’ Elizabeth Vega was arrested for ‘assault of a police officer’—with a pumpkin; though you can see in photos that the officer in question took the pumpkin out of her hands.  Her pumpkin had the word ‘racism’ written on it.

According to Vega;

“The cop took the ‘racism’ and protected it from being smashed,” she said, “and then charged me with assault of a police officer. You cannot make metaphors up like this.”   Source :

Additional highlights included a rally by local clergy preaching against police brutality and racism.  The keynote speaker was Dr. Cornell West.  After youth leaders demanded to gain the stage, pleading with elder leaders to join them in the streets—Dr. West knew what he had to say—and it wasn’t an academic lecture.

West looked out and stated the obvious;

“It’s a beautiful thing to see people on fire for justice, but I didn’t come here to give a speech,” West said during a discussion on Sunday night. “I came here to go to jail.”

The street theater from Ferguson October, included interrupting a symphony concert, hanging banners in the football stadium, and blocking streets with games of double dutch jump rope. It was a smart strategy by the youth. The kids know, street theater gets the media’s attention, and ongoing media coverage puts politicians on notice. Ferguson October will continue in the streets of St. Louis, in all its ‘street theater’ glory, until there is equal justice for all.


The slaying of Michael Brown and the resultant civil liberties crisis it triggered plays out in St. Louis as the world watches an army of militarized police face up against another army—of teens, elderly, clergy and neighbors.  While peaceable protesters have been summarily lumped together with various thugs and provocateurs; police demonstrate to the world a type of militaristic paranoia where any person—even an infant—could be the ‘enemy.’   Any sense of shame or humanity has been erased when they are ‘on duty.’

Police in Ferguson and St. Louis County heartlessly trampled a makeshift memorial where Mike Brown’s body had been left to rot in the street.  They allowed police dogs to urinate on the spot and later drove over the remaining flowers and teddy bears.  (Source:

We are far beyond the ‘community relations’ stage.


Ann Jones: Genuine, Handcrafted, Man-Made Government

By: Tom Engelhardt Thursday October 30, 2014 8:05 am

This article originally appeared at To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.


[For TomDispatch Readers: Here’s a special, limited-time offer. Ann Jones is going to pass through New York City early in November.  It’s a rare opportunity to get a personalized, signed copy of her remarkable Dispatch book, They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return From America’s Wars -- The Untold Story.  If you remember, at age 73, she followed grievously wounded American soldiers just off Afghan battlefields all the way back home, an odyssey of a journey and a vivid education in the true cost of America’s recent wars.  The book is already a classic and we at TomDispatch are proud that it’s in our publication program.  For a $100 contribution to this site, you can get that copy signed by Jones.  Just check out our donation page for the details (and note that signed copies of former Army Ranger Rory Fanning’s book, Worth Fighting For: An Army Ranger’s Journey Out of the Military and Across America, and my new book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World, are also on offer).  Ann will sign books on November 7th, so make sure to get your donation in before then.  It’s a once-in-a-blue-moon opportunity. 

And TomDispatch readers in or near Santa Fe, New Mexico, don’t miss Jones in conversation with Andrew Bacevich on November 12th at the Lensic Performing Arts Center, part of Lannan Foundation’s cultural freedom program. It's an event that shouldn't be missed.  Tom]

From the beginning, it was to be “Russia’s Vietnam.”  First the administration of President Jimmy Carter, then that of President Ronald Reagan was determined to give the Soviet Union a taste of what the U.S. had gone through in its disastrous 14-year war in Southeast Asia.  As National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski would later put it, “On the day that the Soviets officially crossed the [Afghan] border [in 1979], I wrote to President Carter, saying, in essence: ‘We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam War.’” And with that in mind, the CIA (aided by the Saudis and Pakistanis) would arm, train, and advise extreme Islamist factions in Pakistan and dispatch them across the border to give the Soviets a taste of what Washington considered their own medicine, Vietnam-style.

It worked in a major way. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev would later call Afghanistan “the bleeding wound” and, in 1989, a decade after the Red Army had crossed that border, it would limp home to a fading empire on the edge of implosion.  It was a classic Cold War triumph for Washington, the last needed before the Soviet Union stepped off the edge of history and disappeared… oh, except for one small thing: those well-armed extremists didn’t conveniently go away.  It wasn’t mission accomplished.  Not by half.  A taste of Vietnam for the Russians turned out to be only the hors d’oeuvre for a main course still to come.  And the rest of the disastrous history of what Chalmers Johnson would term “blowback,” even before it fully blew back not just on devastated Afghanistan, but on New York City and Washington, is painfully well known and not yet over.  Not by half.

As a result, when the Bush administration launched America’s second Afghan war in October 2001, whether it knew it or not, it was prescribing for itself a taste of the medicine it had given the Soviets back in the 1980s.  Think of it as the worst possible version of do-it-yourself doctoring.  Now, another 13 years have passed.  We’re three and a half decades beyond Brzezinksi’s urge to Vietnamize the USSR in Afghanistan and that Central Asian country is a basket case.  The Taliban insurgency is back big time; the Afghan army and police are taking horrific casualties, and you can bet that, with one eye on the collapsed Iraqi army the U.S. trained and armed, there are plenty of anxious people in the Pentagon when it comes to those Afghan security forces into which the U.S. has sunk at least $60 billion.  In the meantime, the “democracy” that the U.S. promised to bring to the country has experienced a second deeply fraudulent presidential election, this time with a vote so contested and filled with questionable balloting practices that the final count couldn’t be released to the country.  A new government was instead cobbled together under Washington’s ministrations in a way that bears no relation to the country’s constitution.

In the meantime, Afghanistan is rife with corruption of every imaginable sort and, worst of all, its only real success story, its bumper crop, is once again the opium poppy.  In fact, last year the country raised a record opium crop, worth $3 billion, beating out the previous global record holder– Afghanistan — by 50%!  On America’s watch, it is the planet’s preeminent narco-state.  And keep in mind that, in line with the history of the last 13 years of the American occupation and garrisoning of the country (with a possible 10 more to go), the U.S. put $7.6 billion dollars into programs of every sort to eradicate poppy growing.  So, once again, mission accomplished!  Today, TomDispatch regular Ann Jones, author of They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return From America’s Wars — The Untold Story, looks back at what those 13 years of “America’s Afghanistan” meant to the women whom the Bush administration so proudly “liberated” on invading the country.  And given its success in poppy eradication, how do you think Washington did on that one? Tom

The Missing Women of Afghanistan 
After 13 Years of War, the Rule of Men, Not Law 
By Ann Jones

On September 29th, power in Afghanistan changed hands for the first time in 13 years. At the Arg, the presidential palace in Kabul, Ashraf Ghani was sworn in as president, while the outgoing Hamid Karzai watched calmly from a front-row seat.  Washington, congratulating itself on this “peaceful transition,” quickly collected the new president’s autograph on a bilateral security agreement that assures the presence of American forces in Afghanistan for at least another decade. The big news of the day: the U.S. got what it wanted.  (Precisely why Americans should rejoice that our soldiers will stay in Afghanistan for another 10 years is never explained.)

The big news of the day for Afghans was quite different — not the long expected continuation of the American occupation but what the new president had to say in his inaugural speech about his wife, Rula Ghani. Gazing at her as she sat in the audience, he called her by name, praised her work with refugees, and announced that she would continue that work during his presidency.

Over Easy

By: Ruth Calvo Thursday October 30, 2014 4:47 am

Over Easy

The community that began with Southern Dragon’s Lakeside Diner continues. Today we collect news from outside the usual, and renew the discussion.

It’s a good time to make a donation to Firedoglake, to keep this and other discussions going.  The expense is borne by this site, and we all benefit from the diaries that we can post and discussions we can have here.

Cells have been developed in the lab that effectively fight cancer;  research at Harvard has produced a weapon against brain tumors that has been successful in mice and now will move on to tests on humans.

‘In experiments on mice, the stem cells were genetically engineered to produce and secrete toxins which kill brain tumours, without killing normal cells or themselves.’


Dr Khalid Shah, lead author and director of the molecular neurotherapy and imaging lab at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, said the results were very positive.

“After doing all of the molecular analysis and imaging to track the inhibition of protein synthesis within brain tumours, we do see the toxins kill the cancer cells.”

The closing of Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem has been called ‘a declaration of war’ by Abbas, as Israel for the first time since 1967 prohibited worshipers from entering to worship there.

Both Jewish and Muslim worshipers will be prohibited from visiting the site “until further notice,”Israel’s public security minister said. Following the announcement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered “a significant hike” in the number of police forces patrolling Jerusalem, Naharnet daily reports.

Palestinian authorities quickly responded to the move, saying it was a “dangerous and blatant challenge” that would lead to more tension and instability in an already volatile situation.

The failed Antares launch in Wallops Island, VA, may have involved the systems that have been under question for some time and are supplied by Russia, leading to an earlier revision of the design involved..

The company planned to do away with the AJ26 engines by 2017 but will now look at alternatives sooner, the company said in a statement on Wednesday.

“As most of you know, the AJ26 rocket engines used in that system have presented us with some serious technical and supply challenges in the past,” Orbital chairman and CEO David Thompson said in a conference call with investors and financial analysts.

In May, an AJ26 engine exploded during a test, delaying a prior International Space Station (ISS) mission that was intended to provide the station with fresh supplies.


57 Candidates and Nothing On

By: David Swanson Wednesday October 29, 2014 6:57 pm

I was lucky to attend a debate among the candidates for Congress from Virginia’s Fifth District just before game 7 of the world series. This was the kind of event you can write about while drinking beer and yelling at a television with your family. In fact, I’m not sure there’s any other way you could write about it.

Here are our choices for the House of Misrepresentatives:

The incumbent Robert Hurt, a fairly typically horrendous Republican, if a bit less of a warmonger than his Democratic predecessor, didn’t make a fool of himself at all on Wednesday evening. On the contrary, he disgraced himself by not showing up. Of course, the debate was in the left-leaning corner of a district gerrymandered to keep him in Washington for life, barring a mass movement of a few thousand people for one of his opponents. He would have answered most of the evening’s questions as badly or worse than anyone else there, and that’s saying something. One of the questions, submitted by me on a 3×5 card, was this:

Roughly 53% of federal discretionary spending goes to militarism. How much should?

I doubt very much that Hurt would have answered the question clearly and directly had he been there.

Ken Hildebrandt, an Independent Green who spoke often if vaguely about cutting the military, answered my question by offering arguments that UFOs had visited Roswell. Asked about climate change, he argued that chem-trails from airplanes are manipulating our weather. Pretty much all the other questions he answered: “Hemp.” Hildebrandt is a bit of a mixed bag. He wants progressive taxation but no gun laws. He wants single-payer health coverage but calls it “public option” and claims that life expectancy in the United States is in the 40s. (During the whole debate, neither the moderator nor any candidate ever corrected another’s factual errors, and the opportunities were plentiful.) Hildebrandt wants to stop subsidizing Lockheed and Boeing, but has nothing to say on a lot of topics, seems to think the two men sitting next to him would be about as good in office as he would, runs for office every two years as a routine, has a wife running in the next district, and — less peacefully than one might wish — calls the incumbent a “monster.”

Behind Curtain 2 is Paul Jones, a Libertarian. He said he’d cut military spending in half immediately, that it’s not defensive. “Who’s going to attack us?” he asks. “It’s ludicrous! The reason they would attack us is that we’re over there all the time. . . . Nobody ever wins a war.” Not bad, huh? He wants to end the surveillance state too. Of course, you had to be there to hear him mumble it all. But here’s the downside. He wants that $500,000,000,000 to all go into tax cuts. He also objects to the term “discretionary spending.” It’s all discretionary, he says, no matter what some politician says (such as in a law putting Social Security out of his government-shrinking reach). Also he’d like to cut most of the rest of the government too, including eliminating a bunch of departments — although, unlike Rick Perry, he didn’t attempt to name any of them. He also wants to pay off the debt, use the free market for healthcare (while assisting the poor) and get immigrants to start paying taxes (huh?). He claims no laws can keep guns from criminals or the mentally ill. He claims that India produces more greenhouse gases than the United States.

Last up is Democrat Lawrence Gaughan. He was the most professional, articulate presence. He said he agreed with the other two gentlemen a lot, but it wasn’t clear what he meant. He said he agreed “100%” with Jones on military spending. So, does he want to cut it by 50% right away? Will he introduce a bill to do that? He criticized Hurt for supporting the new war in Iraq. He called the Pentagon a “Department of Offense.” But he said repeatedly that he would cut $1 trillion in military spending, which obviously meant $1 trillion over some number of years, probably at best 10 years, which would mean $100 billion a year. He claimed that the Democratic Party opposes war. And he claimed that his pro-war predecessor Tom Perriello is working with President Obama to reduce overseas bases. (All of this with a very straight face.)

That combination of comments makes Gaughan by far the best Democratic or Republican candidate in this district in living memory, but a bit of a question mark in terms of follow through. Hildebrandt said he wouldn’t have compromised on “public option.” Gaughan said that he both favored “public option” (clearly meaning to say “single payer”) and would have sought a “more bi-partisan solution.” Wow. Gaughan is not even in DC yet and he’s talking as if we’re bothered by “gridlock” more than bad healthcare. He wants to tax corporations and billionaires. He mentions “the 1%” a lot. But he favors a “leaner, more efficient government.” Hildebrandt mentioned publicly financed elections. Gaughan said he wanted to “get the money out of elections” without saying how. He wants immigrants to have a path to citizenship, and he wants to “tighten borders.” He sees the top problem as the concentration of wealth and power, but he sees the root cause of that as low voter turnout (what?). He’s for background checks on guns and recognizing the reality of climate change, but one doesn’t sense a major push for radical transformation. He talks about saving the climate by creating a better America, not a better planet.

Gaughan said he wasn’t taking money from the Democratic Party in Washington. That makes him different from Perriello, who proved very obedient to his “leaders.” No doubt the DCCC isn’t offering money because they don’t think any Democrat has a chance in VA-05. If we were to elect Gaughan, he might not lead Congress toward peace and justice, but he’d come a lot closer to actually meriting the praise that liberal groups gave Perriello, and he just might be answerable to the people who elected him rather than the party that didn’t buy his ticket to Washington. A liberal Democratic Party elections group, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, is basing its national elect-Democrats work out of Charlottesville, but none of the candidates they’re backing are from Virginia.

On Doug Henwood’s piece about Hillary Clinton

By: cassiodorus Wednesday October 29, 2014 5:13 pm

(also to be found at

So what’s wrong with business as usual?

There has so far been a good deal of controversy about Doug Henwood’s piece (“Stop Hillary“) excoriating Hillary Clinton in the most recent Harper’s magazine (November 2014), and now that this issue can be purchased in newsstands, I feel permitted to comment upon the Henwood piece and the debate so far. Much of this debate dates back to before the Harper’s issue appeared in stores — many of the commentators must either 1) have Harper’s subscriptions or 2) be able to access the piece online somehow. At any rate, this is a summary of the conversation that has occurred so far.

The thesis of Henwood’s piece is in black and white in front: the world is about to experience global warming disaster, and the economy is clearly ailing, but from Hillary Clinton one can expect more of the same. “And that shouldn’t surprise us,” we are told on page 31. So what’s wrong with business as usual? Henwood:

Today we desperately need a new political economy — one that features a more equal distribution of income, investment in our rotting social and physical infrastructure, and a more humane ethic. We also need a judicious foreign policy, and a commander-in-chief who will resist the instant gratification of air strikes and rhetorical bluster.

Is Hillary Clinton the answer to those prayers? It’s hard to think so, despite the widespread liberal fantasy of her as a progressive paragon, who will follow through exactly as Barack Obama did not. In fact, a close look at her life and career is perhaps the best antidote to all those great expectations.

So what does Henwood say about Hillary Clinton’s life and career? Her father was an “authoritarian drillmaster” (32). She was exposed to Martin Luther King, Jr., but campaigned for Goldwater in 1964. Saul Alinsky offered her an organizing job, and she rejected the offer for law school. She argued a case for business interests against ACORN over a ballot measure “that would lower electricity rates for residential users in Little Rock and raise them for commercial users.” (33) She tried to organize a health care initiative that was “very high-minded, and good for her image, but of limited impact.” She supported the Welfare Bill of 1996. She was involved, with Bill, in what was later to be called the Whitewater scandal. She passed a lot of symbolic legislation as a Senator from New York, while “mak(ing) friends with her Republican colleagues.” (36) She “backed an escalation of the Afghanistan war, lobbied on behalf of a continuing military presence in Iraq, urged Obama to bomb Syria, and supported the intervention in Syria.” (37) There is a summary of this piece at Huffington Post.

Henwood, then, portrays Hillary Clinton as a standard-issue neoliberal, and so if we are to judge her from her record we can expect a standard-issue Democratic Party neoliberal, with lots of symbolism and status quo substance.

I have yet to see a point-by-point encounter with this piece that refutes its factual statements. Oh, sure, Gene Lyons attempted a takedown of Henwood, but Lyons focused upon Henwood’s mentioning of Blackwater (oops! I mean Whitewater), ignoring most of the substance of Henwood’s piece, and he did so in a way that did not quite establish a direct clash with Henwood’s stylistic criticism of Hillary’s penchant for secrecy and evasion. Max Sawicky responds to this.

Scott Lemieux thinks that “there’s a good Clinton critique waiting to be written (but that) this ain’t it.” I am not convinced by Lemieux’s dismissal. In dealing with Henwood’s critique of the status quo Lemieux praises Obama’s record on the environment. Obama has done a few nice, symbolic things for the cause of Obama as an environmental President, such as are well critiqued in ThinkProgress by Joseph Romm. Maybe that’s all he can do. Should we expect more from Hillary Clinton?

Salon has a piece on Henwood’s article which features an interview with Doug Henwood. He says he wrote the piece “to throw a stink bomb into liberals’ [sense of] certainty.” Here Henwood argues about Hillary’s life that “she went from a youthful semi-radicalism (she was never a real ’60s radical) to a sort of early-middle-aged conservatism, at least in style and temperament, pretty quickly.” And, as regards the bigger picture:

It Seems To Never End

By: Isaiah 88 Wednesday October 29, 2014 11:42 am

Kaci Hickox . . .

I had spent a month watching children die, alone. I had witnessed human tragedy unfold before my eyes. I had tried to help when much of the world has looked on and done nothing. I recalled my last night at the Ebola management center in Sierra Leone. I was called in at midnight because a 10-year-old girl was having seizures. I coaxed crushed tablets of Tylenol and an anti-seizure medicine into her mouth as her body jolted in the bed. It was the hardest night of my life. I watched a young girl die in a tent, away from her family.

That’s where Kaci Hickox was, that’s what she was doing while the corporate media incited fear across America, while this country’s posturing politicians and halfwit reporters made shameful spectacles of themselves in front of God and everybody. They’re good at it, they’ve had plenty of practice.

Yes, we heard you FOX. We heard you ABC. We heard you CBS. We heard you NBC.

Be afraid.



That’s the message, that’s the constant message, that’s the never-ending message of the Powers-That-Be.

Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist . . .

Don’t give in to your fears. If you do, you won’t be able to talk to your heart.

Kaci Hickox listened to her heart, and her heart led her to West Africa, one of the rare regions of this world we haven’t gotten around to bombing yet.

Mamma e bambino ricoverati nella maternità dell'ospedale di Pujehun - foto di Luigi Baldelli

(Photo by Medici con l’Africa Cuamm, Flickr Creative Commons)

William Rivers Pitt . . .

Madame Jane predicts: Things are gonna to get worse, much worse

By: Jane Stillwater Wednesday October 29, 2014 10:15 am

My neighbor Madame Jane is not only the world’s most accurate fortune-teller, she is also the most completely-ignored fortune-teller since the beginning of time — except perhaps for Cassandra.  And there is a good reason for this too.  Frankly, Madame Jane is just plain morose.  Nobody wants to be told bad news constantly — even if it is true.  Even I am getting tired of being haunted by Madame Jane’s sad tales of gloom and doom.  And I’ve told her this time and again.

But, suddenly, at 6:00 am this morning, there was Madame Jane again, at my front door, banging fiercely away with her fists and shouting,  “You need to wake up, dearie.  Wake up!  And it’s time for the whole world to wake up too!”

“Well, the whole world is going to have to wait,” I yelled back, “until after I’ve brushed my teeth.”  Plus I’d just finished reading a book called “Fun Is Good” — and Madame Jane is definitely not fun.

But M.J. was having none of it.  “Things are never going to get better in America,” she yelled through the door.  “I have just returned from the future.  Things are only going to get worse.  And right now the only hope of changing this grim future is to band all Americans together as allies, working together in common cause.”

Read my lips.  “I. Don’t. Care.”

“We need to stop anyone who tries to teach Americans to hate each other.  We need to turn off all those attack-ads on TV — and then fight desperately like wolves in a pack so that, in the future, things perhaps might possibly remain the same as they are now and not get any worse.”

Madame Jane took a deep breath and adjusted her wig.

“The wealthy 1% are now shamelessly attacking black people, brown people, old people, children, Muslims, Native Americans, progressive white people, students and women.  Separately these groups are all minorities.  But united together they can all stand tall — like the strong and proud Americans they are.  But will they actually even try to unite to protect themselves from these merciless attacks by the oligarchs?  Not gonna happen.”

No, Madame Jane definitely does not have a fun outlook on life.

But then I suddenly remembered what Mahatma Gandhi used to say.  “You must not lose faith in humanity.  Humanity is like an ocean.  If a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the whole ocean does not have to become dirty.”

So I told that to M.J. — and she just humphed.  “Mahatma Gandhi’s ocean never had to deal with Fukushima.”

“Okay, so the whole world is going to hell in a hand-basket,” I said.  “But so what?  Every human being has got to die sometime anyway and there is no escaping that fact — so what does it matter if our time comes sooner rather than later?  Plus what the freak can I do about any of this freaking mess at freaking 6:00 am in the morning?”

But Madame Jane was completely undeterred.  “You need a  wake-up call!” she cried.  No I don’t.  I need coffee.

“You need to start reading up on what is really happening in the world right now, girly-girl — not just what they tell you on TV.  And after that, you need to go get out in the world and start making some waves.  And even if you are only one drop in an huge ocean, then you need to start making that one drop count.  Because if you and all the other billions of little guys like you don’t do something to stop these dire predictions from happening, then who will?  And then everything that I predict will come true.”

If we snooze, we lose.  Got it.  Now can I go back to bed?

“And America today currently has the most sadistic foreign policy since Genghis Klan — and I can clearly see that America’s foreign policy will be getting even more sadistic in the next 20 years.  That is, if there still is any America left 20 years from now!  With a foreign policy based on mass murder, who can tell how long America can still stay in business without pissing everyone off — including God, Allah, the Buddha and Jesus!”  Yikes!  Has Halloween already arrived?  To stay forever?  Apparently so.

Let’s Ensure Transportation Finance Can Be a Two-Way Street

By: WI Budget Project Wednesday October 29, 2014 9:12 am

An efficient transportation network can’t exist entirely of one-way streets. It needs to be adaptable, with multiple modes of transportation and some areas where traffic flows in different directions. Likewise, the financing for a good transportation network needs flexibility, and it shouldn’t invariably be restricted to one-way flows of revenue.

Next week Wisconsin voters will cast ballots on a proposed constitutional amendment that we think would be too restrictive. Although it would allow state lawmakers to continue to make transfers between many state funds, such as supplementing the Transportation Fund with money from the state’s General Fund, it would prohibit ever moving Transportation Fund revenue in the opposite direction. That would create a double standard for Wisconsin revenue transfers. It would be a mistake to lock an inflexible policy for state budgeting into the Wisconsin Constitution, as this editorial explains.

Some who favor a constitutional amendment point to past transfers that reduced resources for transportation programs. But over the last twelve years, far more has been transferred into the Transportation Fund than has been transferred away from it.

Since the 2003-05 budget period, when the first major transfers occurred, the net gain to the Transportation Fund has been $314 million. This amount includes transfers between the General Fund and the Transportation Fund as well as the cost of General Fund-supported bonds issued for transportation purposes.

In the 2003-05, 2005-07, and 2007-09 budget periods, there was a net loss from the Transportation Fund. That flow of revenue was reversed in the 2009-11, 2011-13, and 2013-15 budget periods, when lawmakers devoted increasingly large amounts of General Fund resources to transportation.

Let’s keep in mind that circumstances change in unexpected ways, and the state often finds that it needs to move money from one pot of funding to another. The proposed constitutional amendment would put one state fund, and only one fund, permanently off limits – elevating transportation spending above all other purposes, regardless of the circumstances. That would unnecessarily restrict the options of future elected officials.

As the WISC-TV editorial said: “Roads will get their due, as they should. But we need not enshrine that fact in the state constitution.”