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One-Percent Justice is Justice Denied

By: welshTerrier2 Wednesday January 18, 2012 9:58 am
Justice Denied

Justice Denied

Injustice exists everywhere.

We suffer from racism, sexism, agism and endless other forms of bigotry. Much of the fault, dear Brutus, “lies not within our stars but within ourselves”. While in some areas we have made progress, for example in our hiring and housing laws, our prejudices still seem to run very deep within us as individuals. The more stress we are subjected to by the failings of our economic system, the more explicit our prejudices seem to become.

Many of our laws are not just to begin with.

They are not just because they do not impose their restrictions equally on all citizens. Anatole France, a French author and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature skewered this inequity with his famous comment: “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.” Majestic equality, indeed.

But even looking beyond our own bigotries, even looking beyond the inequities of the laws themselves, we find a perverse institutional corruption within the very framework we like to believe is the ultimate arbiter of justice, i.e. the courts and our legal system.

We count on our legal system to render justice. In both civil suits and criminal cases, plaintiff is pitted against defendant. The case is tried, a judge or a jury decides which side wins and which side loses, and justice is rendered. Or is it?

Sometimes, one side is a corporation with a ten million dollar a year legal budget and the other side is little old you. Fair fight? Well, no, how could it be? One side has a fleet of top-talent lawyers, dozens of investigators and all kinds of ancillary staff and you have your brother-in-laws’ neighbor who is a lawyer who owes your brother-in-law a favor. Is that justice? Should we just continue to accept this sorry state of affairs?

Or perhaps you have been charged with a crime. You hire the best legal talent you can afford, given your limited resources, and the government has a district attorney, a team of prosecutors, a team of investigators, and a budget to hire expert witnesses. Again, fair fight? Again, well, no, how could it be?

The core question is: Can justice be rendered when there is a huge gap in the resources available to the parties in a trial?

It is certainly true that money does not always control the outcome. It is certainly true that poor defendants can have a Public Defender appointed to help them. The bottom line, though, is that money can and does affect the outcome of our judicial process and that is a prescription for justice denied.

When there is rich man’s justice and poor man’s justice, there is no justice at all.

What, then, if anything, do you suggest we do about that?

 

MLK on Commitment – Are you making a difference?

By: welshTerrier2 Sunday January 15, 2012 8:56 am

Here is an excerpt from one of Martin Luther King’s more famous speeches:

I say to you, this morning, that if you have never found something so dear and precious to you that you will die for it, then you aren’t fit to live. You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be, and one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls upon you to stand for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid.

You refuse to do it because you want to live longer. You’re afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you’re afraid that somebody will stab or shoot or bomb your house. So you refuse to take a stand.

Well, you may go on and live until you are ninety, but you are just as dead at 38 as you would be at ninety.

And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit.

You died when you refused to stand up for right.

You died when you refused to stand up for truth.

You died when you refused to stand up for justice.

Well, I can admit I don’t quite measure up to Martin’s standard. The good news is, though, that with each passing year, I have become a better warrior.

Ben Franklin on the “Disposition” of “Superfluous” Wealth for the “Welfare of the Publick”

By: welshTerrier2 Monday December 26, 2011 9:58 am

All the property that is necessary to a Man, for the Conservation of the Individual and the Propagation of the Species, is his natural Right, which none can justly deprive him of: But all Property superfluous to such purposes is the Property of the Publick, who, by their Laws, have created it, and who may therefore by other laws dispose of it, whenever the Welfare of the Publick shall demand such Disposition. He that does not like civil Society on these Terms, let him retire and live among Savages. He can have no right to the benefits of Society, who will not pay his Club towards the Support of it.

- Benjamin Franklin, letter to Robert Morris, December 25, 1783

All the property that is “necessary”… but not more. Such said good old Ben Franklin. Everything beyond that, i.e. all wealth beyond that, said Ben, is “superfluous” and, as such, must be allocated to “the welfare of the publick” when the public interest so warrants.

What was Ben saying here? Was one of the country’s Founding Fathers arguing that each person should be free to earn as much as he could? Was he arguing that an individual’s right to accumulate unlimited wealth was perhaps the most fundamental American freedom? Was this an argument to put the right to pursue wealth ahead of societal interest? The answer to these questions is clearly “no”.

Ben was one of the most important architects of American values. The American ideal is that we, the people, have every right to demand that all excess wealth accumulated by individuals can be confiscated by the people, through their representatives, for the public good. We have today, in this country, the greatest gap between rich and poor we have seen since the Great Depression and perhaps the greatest ever. This concentration of wealth has perverted our political process and it has led to all manner of crimes against the common man and woman and against the environment on which we all depend.

What is the state of wealth confiscation in America today? What do we hear in our political discourse and throughout our mass media? What do our major parties have to say on this critically important issue? Even most American liberals are afraid to touch this third rail.

The silence is deafening but the implications scream loudly in anguish.

Note that Ben made no mention of “current year’s income”. He did not call for a levy on income (e.g. a graduated income tax) but rather a “disposition” of “superfluous property”. What he spoke of was the right of the public to confiscate wealth. Today’s political class justifies greed (“greed is good”) by ignoring the spirit, soul and intent of the nation’s founders. Those uttering Franklin’s words today are dismissed as left-wing kooks and heretics to American values. Franklin would never have granted any individual the right to possess the wealth of kings because such wealth inevitably would betray, or at least could betray, what is good for all the people. Franklin’s message was unequivocal: the rights of the society, this is the “Publick”, superceded the rights of the individual. Today’s America has long since forgotten and perverted that message.

We need to truly understand the implications of an ever-centralizing concentration of wealth. The well-known “a rising tide lifts all boats” is no longer relevant. In a healthy, growing economy, it was true that even as the super-wealthy increased their share of national wealth, it did not mean the middle class could not also be growing more prosperous. But such models were only relevant in a post-WWII America where the US overwhelmed the global economy. In today’s world, many new nations are emerging as economic powers and the global economic domination of the US is waning. Put another way, there is no rising tide anymore. The tide is going out and with it the hopes and dreams of an egalitarian society with a strong middle class.

With the loss of economic might, the endless concentrating of wealth becomes an urgent matter for the masses. The paradigm that it is OK for the wealthy to grow wealthier relative to the middle class is no longer operative. Now, as wealth concentrates among a narrower and narrower segment of society, poverty and suffering extends its reach among a rapidly growing number of Americans. There is no more “win-win”; for decades now, we have been trapped in a very clear “win-lose” perversion of Franklin’s vision. Superfluous wealth, i.e. wealth beyond any reasonable definition of necessity, has somehow come to be seen as the essence of a free America. There is no freedom amidst the poverty and hopelessness created by a government that treasonously perverts the will of the Founders by catering to the special interests.

Until more of us understand the American values embodied in Franklin’s statement, democracy itself will continue to die. What will you do about this? What will you demand from those running for office? What candidates or parties will address the urgency of this issue? The concentration of wealth we have today is destroying the last remnants of a once-promising American democracy, and America’s middle class, while those who stand for election say and do nothing about it. If we continue to vote for them, are we not enabling the special interests to prosper at our expense and the interest of the Publick?

Ron Paul – In His Own Words

By: welshTerrier2 Thursday December 22, 2011 9:16 pm

Did he or didn’t he? The mainstream press is all abuzz. Did Ron Paul know about the racist writings that appeared in his newsletters or didn’t he?

Well, at least for now, there doesn’t seem to be much proof one way or the other. People will believe what they want to believe.

No need for speculation though.

On July 3, 2004, Ron Paul gave a speech to Congress about the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Here’s a link to the speech so that you can read the whole speech and understand Mr. Paul’s mindset.

Whether he deserves to be labeled a racist or not, I’ll leave for you to decide. In my opinion, the best you can say on his behalf is that his intent, at least in this speech, does not appear to be racist. That’s the good news. The bad news is that he’s such a twisted libertarian that his “businesses should be free to discriminate if they want to” nonsense ultimately is a permission slip for racists to do whatever they want without government intervention. If you are a Ron Paul supporter, do you actually condone this view?

Here is a key excerpt from Mr. Paul’s speech:

Instead, the forced integration dictated by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 increased racial tensions while diminishing individual liberty.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 gave the federal government unprecedented power over the hiring, employee relations, and customer service practices of every business in the country. The result was a massive violation of the rights of private property and contract, which are the bedrocks of free society. The federal government has no legitimate authority to infringe on the rights of private property owners to use their property as they please and to form (or not form) contracts with terms mutually agreeable to all parties. The rights of all private property owners, even those whose actions decent people find abhorrent, must be respected if we are to maintain a free society.

Mr. Paul seems to be more concerned about the liberties of businessmen than about the liberties of minority groups that have suffered at the hands of racism during America’s not-so-egalitarian history.

I, for one, have no interest in living under the anti-societal oppression libertarians offer. I also have no interest in a Ron Paul candidacy. I hope you don’t either.

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!

By: welshTerrier2 Saturday December 17, 2011 11:57 am

Our chief weapon is fear… and surprise. Our two chief weapons are fear, surprise… and ruthless efficiency. Our three chief weapons are fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency… and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope. Amongst our four weapons are fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope… and our nice red uniforms.

Well, now we have a few new weapons of torture to add to the list.

This is so sick and so perverse that words fail me. Instead, after the following excerpts, I’ve included a humorous scene from Monty Python. Apparently, our First Amendment right to free speech does not include the right to breathe or the right to see. There are some genuinely sick puppies repressing us. Here are some of their latest toys.

Riot shields could scatter crowds with ‘wall of sound’

RIOT shields that project a wall of sound to disperse crowds will reduce violent clashes with police, according to a patent filed by defence firm Raytheon of Waltham, Massachusetts.

(skip)

The new shield described by Raytheon produces a low-frequency sound which resonates with the respiratory tract, making it hard to breathe. According to the patent, the intensity could be increased from causing discomfort to the point where targets become “temporarily incapacitated”.

And, if that doesn’t sell you on the plain and simple respect governments have for peaceful protesters, how about this one?

Obama’s Toughest Challenger

By: welshTerrier2 Tuesday December 13, 2011 4:44 am

Over the past few months, a handful of courageous challengers have stepped forward to throw their hats in the ring for next year’s presidential election. One or two have come from inside the Democratic Party; one or two have come from outside the party. Jill Stein will be the nominee for the Green Party; Rocky Anderson will represent the fledgling Justice Party. While I have great admiration for these candidates, sadly, I doubt they will be more than a footnote in history… at least for 2012. Perhaps someday, third parties will find a way to break through the corporate-stranglehold of the Republican-Democrat duopoly. Let’s not deceive ourselves into thinking that opposition candidates and parties are more than they really are. For those invested in such pursuits, I commend you and apologize for my skepticism. Go for it!

So, having said this, who… or rather what, has the potential to take down Obama next year?

The City of Charlotte, more specifically Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, said of a newly proposed ordinance targeting likely OWS protests at next year’s Democratic Convention: “The recent issues related to camping on city property have further amplified the need to review whether the city wants to regulate this activity during the DNC.” A city councilman commenting on current, and presumably future, Occupy Charlotte protests stated: “Once those ordinances go into effect, those overnight stays will end.”

Perhaps, unlike their 1968 predecessors, the Occupy movement will choose to steer clear of the political circus of the Democrat and Republican national conventions. Perhaps they will stage their own conventions at other locations. Don’t count it though. When the national media spotlights are turned on, what better place to get out your message? The conventions are likely to be ground zero for the movement.

Obama and his Democrats have some serious decisions ahead of them. Failure to handle the situation correctly might very well result in a crushing defeat for Democrats across the country. Occupy will be in Charlotte next year in waves whether the City of Charlotte welcomes them or not. Some, I’ve seen, on various pro-Democrat forums, have suggested that Democrats won’t be to blame; the choices are up to the City of Charlotte to determine how to handle the situation. They can’t be serious. Obama and the Democrats will get the blame if there are police and National Guard abuses against peaceful Occupy protesters. If it happens, there will be a bitter, emotional divide among Democrats and, just like 1968, the party will be crushed.

But it’s going to take much more than Obama’s pretty words and much more than tolerance of the street protesters to solve the problem. The reality is that neither the Democrats nor Obama himself is up to the task. At its core, the Occupy message is that they are sick and tired of the ultra-wealthy running the country and being catered to by the Democrat-Republican political class. Is anyone really naive enough to believe that the Democrats will accept the Occupy message and change course, deep in their hearts, before next year’s convention? They might try to show some sympathy in words; these words will be lies. In deeds, the Democrats have no interest in ending the rich-get-richer system of governance. Their token tax cuts will not end the special interest control of our government. Their wars and their endless military spending will do nothing to re-invest in America… and in Americans. Their moving further and further to the right to eat into the Republican share of the “independent vote” will do nothing to redress the desperation most Americans feel about their future. Their pursuit of Wall Street lobbyist loot and campaign cash exposes their lies.

Obama and his Democrats are in very, very serious trouble next year. There’s a challenger out there that they have no idea how to handle. It won’t come from the traditional, electoral model. It will come from the voices of the people assembled, legally or not, in the streets of Charlotte. And, just like in 1968, the whole world will be watching.

Symptoms of tyranny and repression

By: welshTerrier2 Friday December 2, 2011 1:03 pm

The following paragraph is an excerpt from a book by Noam Chomsky called “Understanding Power”:

“There’s a part of the Pentagon Papers which is considered politically incorrect… It’s the part that deals with the time right after the Tet Offensive in 1968, everyone recognized that the Vietnam war was going to take a long time, it wasn’t going to be possible to win it quickly – so major decisions had to be made about strategy and policy. Well, the Joint Chiefs of Staff were asked by General Westmoreland, the top American commander in Vietnam, to send 200,000 more troops over to the war – and they refused, they didn’t want to do it. And the reason is, they said they were afraid they might have to use the troops here in the United States to put down a civil war: they said they were going to need the troops at home for “civil disorder control,” as they put it, and therefore they didn’t want to send them to Vietnam. These guys thought the society was going to crack up in 1968, because people here were just too opposed to what they were doing.”

Militarization of police

When a so-called free society blurs the line between military control of its domestic population and civilian control, when it blurs the line between military “justice” (Groucho Marx quote: “military justice is to justice what military music is to music”) and civilian justice whose courts are designed to uphold the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, when it blurs the line between “enemy combatants” and those who speak out and demonstrate against its policies and laws in pursuit of a redress of grievances, it ceases to be a free society.

After decades of sleepwalking through history, the people, or at least some of the people, have awakened. They have raised their voices in protest. They have organized. They have occupied.

Make no mistake about it, “the powers that be” are deeply concerned. No, the little encampments are not sufficient in numbers to pull the whole thing down. No, communications from the camps is far from sufficient to speak loudly and clearly to the American people. It’s not even clear whether a consensus on objectives or even tactics will be achieved anytime soon. I repeat, however, make no mistake about it, the big boys are concerned… very concerned.

For decades now, they have seen their power as absolute. None would dare challenge them. Even when the moral standing was not on their side, they were able to “fix the facts around the policy.” Put another way, they could manufacture their own truths and disseminate them freely through the co-operative, corporatized media. Fear was sold. Patriotism was sold. The protesters were denigrated as Communists or ne’er-do-wells or hippies.

The arrogance of those in power has blinded them to the impact of their over-reactions. Their strong-armed tactics have given everyone a glimpse of tyranny.

Instead of sending a few dozen police, they sent armies of police in full riot gear. They came equipped for war. They came; they pepper-sprayed; they tear gassed; they beat with three-foot long clubs; they maimed peaceful protesters with rubber bullets. The police were not confronted by hundreds of thousands of demonstrators. Perhaps, if they were badly outnumbered, the modalities of repression they’ve chosen might have been more accepted by some. But in most cases, there were many more police than demonstrators and those demonstrators were peaceful. The Occupiers have been courageous by standing up, peacefully, in the face of such overwhelming and menacing force.

Regardless of what Americans think about the Occupiers themselves, this has given local police forces and the image of American justice or lack thereof a huge black eye. Perhaps there was a time that other countries marveled at the freedoms American citizens had; those days have been buried. Without the moral authority to claim that we are just and that Americans are free to speak against their government with impunity, the US can no longer lay claim to the mantle “leader of the free world”. Like so many dead and buried empires that are now just footnotes in history, the US regime promises freedom on the packaging but the product inside the box is oppression… and the whole world knows it.

Just yesterday, the Senate passed the National Defense Appropriations Act (NDAA) that includes within it the heinous provision essentially repealing habeas corpus. The executive branch can now direct the military, at its sole discretion, to pull any US citizen off the street and hold them in custody without trial. Put another way, American citizens can be “disappeared” even if they are innocent. You can’t demand a lawyer; you can’t demand a trial of your peers in a civilian court. In fact, you can be hidden away wherever the military wants to hide you. But you’re innocent you say? Not if they say you aren’t.

Too many Americans still don’t believe the threat those in power pose to the core values of the American republic. They see elections still happening and that means we are a “free country”. They hear someone on the news criticizing Obama or making fun of the Republican candidates and they believe freedom in the US is alive and well and will always remain this way. Some argue that they are not concerned with the loss of civil liberties because they have done nothing wrong. One wonders how we’ve failed to teach our fellow citizens about the vigilance required to protect our freedoms.

The collapse of our free society is moving at a rapidly accelerating pace. Our media are, for the most part, both inept and controlled. The internet, that has given us a chance to speak to each other and build little islands of revolutionary thought, is coming under increasingly severe attacks. Our elections, such as they ever were, are controlled by two corporate parties and the corporate money that buys their compliance. Our environmental regulations are being gutted. Our labor protections are being attacked. Our Bill of Rights is being neutered because, they tell us, “terrorists are everywhere”.

With each passing day, more and more of us will come to see the ugliness of tyranny that is hiding just behind the thin facade of democracy. More and more of us will feel the pain of oppression. And those who do not march with us in solidarity at this time will not be immune. Behind all the repression lies an economic inevitability. War is being waged not only against those who rise in protest but against the entire economic system of the country. As wealth becomes more and more concentrated, the victims of wealth’s power, let’s call them the 99%, will grow poorer and poorer until they are ultimately unable to sustain themselves. Sitting on the sidelines will not save anyone from that fate.

The Arab Spring Reawakens with a Vengeance

By: welshTerrier2 Tuesday November 22, 2011 10:39 am

After the street protests in Cairo last February and March that toppled the Mubarek regime, the Egyptian revolution seemed to go quiet. The military seized control of the Egyptian government and promised elections would soon be forthcoming. But tensions over Egypt’s future, highlighted by a distrust of the military’s control of the government, have erupted again.

Al Jazeera is reporting that more than 100,000 Egyptians from all walks of life are currently filling Tahrir Square. Protests in Tahrir Square, Cairo

The head of Egypt’s military, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, just spoke to the nation. He promised that the military was totally committed to civilian elections. He said that Parliamentary elections will be held starting on November 28 of this year and that presidential elections would be held in July, 2012. He tried to make a case that the country was still too unstable to hold elections now. In spite of the fact that at least 33 protesters have been killed and more than 1700 injured since Saturday, he said that the military “will never kill a single civilian.” Tantawi made absolutely no reference to earlier statements that the military, even after a democratically elected government was put in place, would remain totally independent of any civilian oversight. This issue, perhaps more than any other, coupled with the violence against protesters, has inflamed the current protests.

The speech was broadcast live to the sea of protesters gathered in Tahrir Square. The reaction was overwhelmingly negative. It was characterized by an Al Jazeera reporter on the scene as “deafening”. The protesters shouted over and over and over “Go, go, go” demanding that Tantawi and his military end their control of the Egyptian government. If the intent of the speech was to provide reassurance to the protesters, it failed miserably.

When protesters arrive in such large numbers even in the face of killings by a corrupt regime, it is hard to see how that regime can survive for long.

Comparisons to the fledgling Occupy movement in the US are inevitable. Are we seeing the early stages of a growing revolution in the US? Will Occupy be able to turn out the same numbers with the same “no cost too high” commitment? Will it be harder to replace the corrupt US government with a new regime than it will be to topple Egyptian military rule?

I’m concerned that we Americans have a much more difficult task ahead of us. For Egyptians, the difference between an unelected military dictatorship and a democratically elected government is very clear. In the US, though, the undemocratic corruption is less clear to many citizens. Too many believe we have the freedom to “just vote them out.” Too many still believe that government can adequately regulate corporations even though most elected officials are heavily dependent on corporate cash to retain their positions in office. You can’t just “throw the bumbs out” when only bumbs make it to the ballot.

Other critical differences exist. The US mass media have shown little or no sensitivity to the Occupy movement. Too many Americans get all their news from corporatized media. While opinions vary about Al Jazeera, the network seems to side with those fighting for democracy. In the US, the media focuses on “private property” rights of park owners; they focus on “smells and hygiene”; they focus on “tents”; they focus on one or two violent actors instead of the overall non-violence essence of the movement. In short, they lie. It is no small task to overcome this pervasive system of propaganda. Americans are not stupid but a steady diet of lies, regardless of what TV newscast they tune into, is a highly effective tool to repress revolution.

Many of us are hopeful that Occupy will continue to grow. We are encouraged by the wisdom the movement has exhibited in its infancy. We know that as more and more of us are brought to the brink of economic and social disaster, the movement will grow. But, we stand in opposition to the greatest concentration of wealth and power the world has ever known. We stand in opposition to a system that has indoctrinated the masses with the belief that the US is a democracy controlled by its citizens in the voting booth. We stand in opposition to a system that stifles and distorts our message.

It was inspiring to watch today’s massive street demonstrations in Cairo. They give us hope that ordinary people doing extraordinary things can be replicated here in the US. Occupy is off to a great start. It emerged from a darkness so profound that perhaps, to some, it seemed like even the smallest seeds of protest could never sprout again in the US. Now, the revolutionary energies of the Occupy movement seem like our last real chance for change. For that to become reality, though, many more of us will need to do much more than we’ve done. As we watch the Arab street put it on the line for their beliefs, perhaps we will gain the inspiration to do what is necessary. The alternative is far too dark to contemplate.