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Reposted from Daily Kos by Denise Oliver Velez
Overpass Light Brigade with lights that read
Overpass Light Brigade, "Unlearn Racism"
When the Overpass Light Brigade brought the message of "Unlearn Racism" to Milwaukee, they held up lights on a subject that we are confronted with daily, but are not always sure how to address as individuals. We know that anthropologists and other scientists have made it clear for years that biological "race" exists as only a social construct, but that "racism" is alive and well and none of us are unaffected by the miasma from the racial swamp we breathe in daily.

So many of our efforts are focusing on protesting the more obvious deleterious effects of systemic racism—via protests and legislation—that we don't always have time to have a conversation about what to do about it, person by person. This is what Ricky Sherover-Marcuse called "attitudinal racism."

Because racism is both institutional and attitudinal, effective strategies against it must recognize this dual character. The undoing of institutionalized racism must be accompanied by the unlearning of racists attitudes and beliefs. The unlearning of racists patterns of thought and action must guide the practice of political and social change.

As a black person, I'm always interested in trying to figure out in conversations with my close friends who are not black—what makes them tick? How did they shake off the shackles of ostensible racial superiority and change? What was it in their upbringing, surrounds, faith, ethical teachings, incidents that took place along the road of life that allowed them to scour out racism or at least start the cleansing? Perhaps if more people would talk about how they unlearned racism, it would help direct others onto that path.

Follow me below the fold to begin that conversation.

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Reposted from Steven D by Denise Oliver Velez

Many, many police officers and their supporters are going ape shit very upset at a group of student artists at Westfield High School in New Jersey for daring to exhibit their artwork.  Why?  Because the art in question is based on the theme "Law Enforcement - Police Brutality."  I guess cops can give a punch (or a taser shot, "rough ride" or a bullet) but they can't stand to see any artistic expression of that behavior, symbolic or otherwise.  And so they are lambasting the high school and the student artists whose only crime, as far as I can tell, was using their own life experience of interactions with police to inform what they create.

Artwork depicting scenes of police brutality displayed in a Westfield High School art show has set off a firestorm of comments from police supporters who have called the images "a gross misrepresentation," "ignorant" and "one-sided."

The artwork depicts images of officers with guns drawn, a target on a silhouette with his hands up, a bloodied body stabbed by a police shield and other scenes on a poster board that reads "Law Enforcement - Police Brutality." The silkscreens were part of an annual project where students depict their takes on controversial topics, according to a student.

A storm of protest on social media erupted after the images first appeared on the school's facebook page, with a large number of people calling for the firing of the Superintendent for the school district, Dr. Margaret Dolan.  Here's a screenshot of some of the tamer responses to the exhibit posted on the school's facebook page:

Of course, Fox News couldn't resist covering this story.  Here's Eric Bolling's fair and balanced take on this matter, where he implicitly blamed the teachers at Westfield High for attacking the police, and demanded the exhibit be "taken down."

Superintendent Dolan, as result of this "controversy" posted a response attempting to defuse the criticism from people who posted such comments and attacked the school district for "teaching kids to disrespect the police."  

I am sorry that information that has been passed along via social media and elsewhere has not told the entire story and has led some to believe that we do not respect law enforcement. We do, and we are teaching our students to do the same.
Ironically, it was the kids at the school who chose the subject - not the Superintendent, not their teachers.  They were told that it was their choice to make and that, as one of the students, Kayla related to
"We submitted several different topics of our choice and finally narrowed them down to three - Law Enforcement- Police Brutality, Modern Technology Advances and Gender Equality," said student Kayla McMillan. "The students were allowed to choose either side of the arguments and were told they would not be in trouble for their own opinions."
Welcome to the real world, Kayla, where people will not respect your right to freedom of expression if it upsets their delicate sensibilities.  Obviously, the student artists who created these images didn't do so in a vacuum, nor did their teachers brainwash them to "hate the police."  The reality in America today is that police violence against all citizens, but particularly minority populations, is commonplace, despite falling crime rates.  We've all seen overzealous and violent law enforcement responses to peaceful protest movements such as Occupy Wall Street, and far too many shootings, and other instances of police violence against African Americans and Latinos, many of them unarmed and often while they were already in custody (e.g., Freddy Gray).  

The cops and their supporters can loudly proclaim all they want that these "incidents" are infrequent and represent only a few bad apples.  However, as more stories come out of officially sanctioned abuse and outright torture, such as what occurred in Chicago's infamous Homan Square station, and as more and more people capture video of these brutal outrages (e.g., Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Eric Garner) where innocent people are murdered by cops, the harder it is to defend the police, especially since so many of them remain silent in the face of their fellow officers' open criminality.

Frankly, in this case, the kids got it right.

Reposted from VetGrl by a2nite

Judge O'Donnell just announced his verdict in the Michael Brelo trial.

Not Guilty.

Judge O'Donnell also accepted as proved Brelo's claims of justification regarding the lesser included offenses.

The charges were manslaughter and felonious assault in the shooting deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams on November 29, 2012.  Brelo was a Cleveland police officer at the time and was one of 13 officers who shot 137 rounds at Russell and Williams.  Background information is available here.

Like any criminal charge, the prosecution was required to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  Judge O'Donnell found that the prosecution did not meet its burden on the manslaughter charges.  

The prosecution did prove felonious assault, but Brelo was nevertheless acquitted because of his successful assertion of justification as a defense.  Brelo bore the burden of proof on this defense by the lower preponderance of the evidence standard.

A few initial observations:

Judge O'Donnell spent an extraordinary amount of time reading the bases for his verdict. He even left the bench to use the visual aids, talking about specific entry wounds, which were fatal, and their angles of entry.

Regarding Timothy Russell, the judge "found beyond a reasonable doubt that fired a shot that by itself would have caused Russell's death."  He added, however, that voluntary manslaughter additionally requires that Brelo's "shot alone actually caused the death or that it was 'the straw that broke the camel's back,'" meaning that Brelo's shot would have to have exacerbated potentially survivable shots, thus causing the death.  (The judge's discussion regarding Malissa Williams is a bit confusing, requiring a closer reading of the verdict.)

The judge also discussed testimony about the unreasonableness of Brelo's jumping on the hood of the car to fire.  He stated that the law requires him to look at the totality of the circumstances and that, even if that one act was unreasonable (which the judge's view on that needs a closer look) the defense of justification isn't defeated by that one aspect.

More to come. I'm going to look for the decision and transcript.

UPDATE:  You can get the written verdict here. The verdict is the entry at the top of the docket entries at that link.  The document opens as a .tif file and I don't know how to include those in a diary.

UPDATE x2:  For way more detail, see jpmasser's diary here.

Update x3:  Because, yes, we've got to find a way:

Reposted from jpmassar by a2nite

OOPS: Someone put an autoplay video embed in the comments. If you hear audio you can go here and stop the video from playing.


 photo Cleveland-RUSSELL-WILLIAMS_zpstwrr7czd.jpg

Two and a half years ago I penned "Wouldn't 136 bullets have been enough?" detailing the egregious and unjustified deaths of two Clevelanders in a hail of police bullets - chased twenty miles through the streets of that city because their car had backfired and officers thought they had fired a weapon (they had no weapon).

Michael Brelo, the officer who fired the last 15 shots from on top of the car they were driving, was put on trial and today, to few people's surprise, was found not guilty of voluntary manslaughter. The judge (who was also the jury) decided that there was no proof that Brelo had fired the fatal shots.

So now we have uncovered yet another way for police to kill and get away with it: a firing squad. And they don't even have to load one of their guns at random with a blank.

There is little more I can say. Having police fire 137 bullets at innocent, unarmed citizens and there be no consequences is absurd, yet that is the world we live in.

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Reposted from JoanMar by Denise Oliver Velez

    Daily Kos' own ObamaCare guru, Brainwrap, has recently highlighted the story of Luis Lang in a number of posts here, here, here, and here, and on his own website. The story is particularly interesting and noteworthy because Luis Lang is losing his sight but gaining some valuable insight. This is Mr. Lang:


     On Wednesday, the Washington Post explained about Luis Lang to everyone who doesn't have an internet:

Lang’s story has gone wild on the internet, turning him into a symbol of a number of intertwined narratives about the law: How Republican opposition to the Medicaid expansion has created a coverage gap claiming many low income people; how justifiable confusion about the complicated law is fueling anger at it; and so on.

It all started when the Charlotte Observer reported that Lang, 49, a self-employed Republican handyman who has never bought insurance, developed “bleeding in his eyes and a partly detached retina caused by diabetes.” The paper reported that subsequent medical bills quickly ate up his savings, whereupon he turned to the Obamacare exchange. He discovered he earns too little to get a subsidy, yet he might not be able to get on Medicaid because South Carolina has not opted into the Medicaid expansion. He risks falling into the “Medicaid gap.”

The paper reported that his family blamed this on Obamacare, prompting criticism from bloggers and others, combined with a crowd-funding drive for his surgery. In a subsequent interview with Think Progress, Lang said he now thinks opposition to the Medicaid expansion is the culprit, is rethinking his GOP affiliation, and is going to try to get coverage from the law, though he still says he has issues with its implementation and blames both parties:

“Now that I’m looking at what each party represents, my wife and I are both saying — hey, we’re not Republicans!” Lang said….

“I put the blame on everyone — Republican and Democrat. But I do mainly blame Republicans for their pigheadedness,” Lang said. “They’re blocking policies that could help everyone. I’m in the situation I’m in because they chose not to expand Medicaid for political reasons. And I know I’m not the only one.”….

    He's right that he's not the only one. In fact, there are approximately 250,000 South Carolinians in the "Medicaid Gap." We at Support the Dream Defenders knew this was going to be a problem, so, back in April, we sent a Freedom of Information Act request to Governor Nikki Haley asking her: What are you doing to find out the extent of the damages you are causing? This was her response:


     As you can see, Governor Nikki Haley has pockets empty of fucks to give about Luis Lang or the other 249,999 or so individuals in South Carolina who are one chicken bone or one drunk driver away from personal bankruptcy (or spending the next 20 to 40 years of their lives going to court to explain to the judge why payments for the hospital's bill couldn't be made that month).

     Besides our surprising new ally, Luis Lang, there are other less surprising entities fighting back. One of those fighters is the South Carolina Hospital Association, which stands to lose billions of dollars because Governor Haley wants to be pure (evil). In fact, at the SCHA website, you can sign a petition about Expanding Medicaid in the state. The petition is kind of fun, in a way, as it goes after other big businesses that have received the Governor's largess:

The choice for our future. For decades, our state has doled-out billions of tax credits to companies like BMW and Boeing to grow our economy and enhance the quality of life in South Carolina. We’ve also offered hundreds of millions of dollars to build highways and deepen our ports to build a better future. By accepting the federal dollars offered to our state, the University of South Carolina Moore School of Business projects that the $11.2 billion in new federal dollars will result in 44,000 new jobs. With the positive economic impact and increased health care coverage, the positive return on investment is clear.
    We urge you to sign the petition, or better still, this one from CREDO.  

     Besides all of the other reasons for Medicaid Expansion, including less DEATH, better health, working population able to work more days, fewer bankruptcies, increased jobs, less need for expensive emergency room care, controlling the previously-skyrocketing effects health care had on state and the national budgets, increased revenue from jobs (South Carolina has a state income tax), the Federal Government pays for 100% of the expense until 2016, when it will gradually lower the percentage over time to 90%.

     Here's the problem: South Carolina has seen a huge increase in people who have signed up for traditional Medicaid--and the federal reimbursement rate for that program varies between approximately 50% to 73.05%. As you can see, those numbers are a lot smaller than 100% or 90%. Additionally, many more children are signing up for the Child Health Insurance Program ("CHIP"). These larger numbers will crush the South Carolina budget. As an aside, if the nearly one million children in Texas who are eligible for CHIP, but have not signed up, ever do, Governor Greg Abbott's state will be in dire financial straits. Of course, this acts as a disincentive for red state governments to aggressively seek out children who could use the health care.      

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Fri May 22, 2015 at 01:00 PM PDT

Black Kos, Week In Review

by Black Kos

Marijuana - The Playing Field is not Level

Commentary by Black Kos Editor JoanMar

I don't smoke. I have never lit up a joint in my life. But I know a lot about the good ol'  Mary Jane. I can smell it a mile away. My mother smoked like every day; my father, I have been told, smoked; my older brother smokes, my younger sister smokes (or smoked - she claims she no longer does - I have heard that before), I have had boyfriends who smoked, and I had smelled it on my son's breath a couple times.
I was not going to be my mom, so that meant no smoking and no heavy drinking.

Given all of the above, you may wonder why I am so bothered by seeing that documentary by CNN, Cashing in on the 'green rush.'  The series celebrate (the best word to describe what I saw) the "trailblazers" who are making use of the opportunity provided to them in the wake of the legalization of marijuana in Colorado.

I am not merely bothered by what I saw, I found it to be downright obscene. To be fair, those people did not invent the problem. They are merely doing what any true entrepreneur would do. I ain't really mad at them as much as I'm mad at yet another piece of evidence of just how our two-tiered justice system works.

See for yourself:

The idea that these people could be so joyously celebrating their new found wealth, even as hundreds of thousands of people have suffered and continue to suffer for trying to do what they are doing, leaves a nasty taste in my mouth

In talking about their "pioneering" business, the young (white) couple featured in the series, spoke about a conversation they had with their grandmother. Apparently they mischaracterized the nature of their business and then were forced to come clean to grandma. The wife explains that conversation this way:

"She thought we were just your stereotypical drug dealers."  
Stereotypical drug dealers. Who are those, pray tell?
Maybe someone like Vincent Winslow? Let's take a look at his case:
On September 5, 2008, Fate Vincent Winslow watched a plainclothes stranger approach him. Homeless and hungry, on a dark street rife with crime, the 41-year-old African American was anxious to make contact, motivated by one singular need: food.
Police arrested Winslow, drove him to prison, and locked him up. Six months later, a jury found him guilty of distribution of a schedule I substance (marijuana). Three months after that, a judge sentenced him to life imprisonment with hard labor, without the benefit of parole.

For a transaction that involved a whopping $25.00, Mr. Winslow got a life sentence, and with hard labor to boot.
He is just one example of thousands...if not millions. Whether selling or using, African Americans are more likely to be targeted, arrested, and convicted.
Whites and blacks  use marijuana at roughly the same rates; on average, however, blacks are 3.7 times more likely than whites to be arrested for possession, according to a comprehensive 2013 report by the A.C.L.U.
In Iowa, blacks are 8.3 times more likely to be arrested, and in the worst-offending counties in the country, they are up to 30 times more likely to be arrested. The war on drugs aims its firepower overwhelmingly at African-Americans on the street, while white users smoke safely behind closed
Another ACLU report details the long lasting, life-changing effect of being arrested for keeping company with mary jane:
When people are arrested for possessing even tiny amounts of marijuana, it can have dire collateral consequences that affect their eligibility for public housing and student financial aid, employment opportunities, child custody determinations, and immigration status.
It seems to me that there is something sad and downright immoral about how the ganja god has chosen to distribute his/her blessings. In the same state, in the same country, in the same world, some people experiencing great fortune while others are  behind bars for doing the exact same thing. If we can't have a level playing field, at least show a little awareness about what's happening around you.

One law for everyone; those in Buk-in-hamm palace, and those standing in the shadows furtively scratching at the edge of the sumptuous pie.

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Fri May 22, 2015 at 12:03 AM PDT

In Defense of Shaun King

by Steven D

Reposted from Steven D by dopper0189

Let's begin by being honest.  Shaun King is a polarizing figure.  

He has a very specific point of view when it comes to American police forces and their dealings with African Americans, and he is not afraid to express himself is the strongest possible terms.  In short, he's outraged at the overt and covert racism he sees in our society as epitomized by the disproportionate and excessive force used by police forces across the country when it comes to how they deal with people of color.  

And he doesn't sugar coat that outrage, nor does he pull his punches.  On the contrary, compared to other well known and prominent spokespersons on this issue (e.g., Charles Blow of The New York Times or Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic) who are just as outraged but approach the subject in a more measured, intellectual manner, Shaun's writing is the equivalent of "shock and awe."  

I'm not saying that his style is necessarily a good or bad thing, or that Messrs. Blow and Coates are better advocates for the cause of racial justice than Shaun.  But his writing on this issue differs in tone, if not in substance, from many others who advocate for a change in the way our society deals with the issue of racism.  His focus is also narrower (at least here on Daily Kos) because his writing primarily addresses police violence and other abuses suffered by African Americans at the hands of the criminal justice system.

Indeed, if you've ever wandered into the comment threads of Shaun King's posts here at Daily Kos, inevitably you have come across a number of folks who dislike the way in which he covers the rash of police killings, racial profiling, etc. of African Americans, and the utter lack of accountability by police for their wrongful behavior.  Let me list just a few of the typical complaints I've seen whenever I scroll through the comment threads tom one of his posts here at Daily Kos.

1.  The "Click Bait" Argument:

The complaint here is that his titles are sensational, misleading, and exaggerate the facts in order to get people to read his posts.

2.  The "You're Shooting Yourself in the Foot" Argument:

This particular complaint is usually posed by those who say that they are concerned that Shaun's use of overly inflammatory language hurts the "cause" of making people aware of racist police conduct.  In effect, these commenters claim that Shaun's use of the rhetoric of outrage damages the validity of his arguments.  In other words, he turns people off.

3.  The Semantics Argument:

Basically, this boils down to the claim that Shaun gets the "legalese" wrong. It's often espoused by those who claim to be lawyers who say they support Shaun's efforts to call attention to police misconduct regarding minorities, a but who then spend paragraphs explaining why his use a particular word or phrase was inappropriate from a legal standpoint, thus undercutting his credibility.

4.  The "Unprofessional Journalist" Argument:

This claim is one made by people upset that with Shaun over some alleged breach of the proper ethical standards required of journalists.  Generally, its based on the notion that he should be more objective when he writes about these matters and less confrontational and opinionated - more nuanced as they say in his treatment of this subject.  More willing to see "both sides" of the problem.  More balanced.

It's ironic, but almost every objection I've seen to Shaun posts here at Daily Kos can just as easily be made to most of the other front page posters over the years.  

Click bait titles?  Excuse me, but isn't that a Hunter "speciality?"  In fact, most of the front pagers here have at one time or another posted stories with titles that "play to the choir," that "push our buttons," that - yes - seek to draw attention to the post they've written.  It's hardly a new phenomenon.  Major newspapers and magazines have a rich tradition of using headlines to "frame" the story so as to encourage media consumers to want to read what follows.  Many diaries here employ the same tactic to attract readers.  You have the discretion to click on those diaries or not, but singling Shaun out for this particular "sin" is rank hypocrisy in my view.  Daily Kos was built on click bait.

As for being excessively inflammatory? Child please.  Again, this is a political blog, not a news service.  Every day people post diaries, front page stories and comments regarding the outrage du jour.  No one beats them over the head with the way they express themselves, at least not to the extent that they do with Shaun.  Again, let's be honest with ourselves.  That is why many of us come here - to read stories that inflame our passions and reinforce our worldview, stories we can often find no place else.  Not to pick on diarists who cover gay rights, but I don't recall seeing a great deal of concern that stories exposing bigoted conservative Christians were too "mean" or too excessive in their condemnation of said "Christians" or somehow harmful to the cause of LGBT rights in general.

I contend that the majority of the anti- Shaun King sentiment here at DKos is based on the false premise that Shaun represents himself as a journalist.  He's not. He doesn't pretend to be one, either.  Does he cover events such as the Ferguson protests over Michael Brown's death?  Yes, but not as a journalist or a reporter for a major media company.  He covers these events from his own point of view, as a black man and an activist for social justice.  Unlike many "journalists" he doesn't try to hide his bias behind weasel words or false equivalencies.  Agree or disagree with him, but don't use the the claim that he's a not a proper journalist to argue that his message is wrong, or the manner in which he expresses himself not credible.

Shaun is an advocate for his cause.  He's a civil rights activist.  He's never claimed to be a journalist.  He writes and posts to the "front page" at Daily Kos, which is a political blog, not a news outlet, such as the Associated Press, Reuters, etc..  He has an agenda, and he hasn't been shy in telling us about it.  Read what he has to say about himself right here, in this interview by Autumn Alson.

Q: A recent study from PEW,has shown that most whites do not feel that the Michael Brown shooting has raised important racial concerns. This is overwhelmingly different than how most blacks seem to feel. How can you explain this dichotomy?

Shaun: Those numbers were stark, but not surprising. Even though it’s 2014, that study showed that culture and life experiences truly determine how you see the world. For me though, I think it is really about empathy. Because almost no white people have ever been brutalized by the police, they innately see the police very differently. Almost 100% of African Americans can describe a personal negative encounter with the police and this informs their perspective on this case and all others regarding police violence.

Q: Privilege comes up a lot in discussions of race. How can we get white people to understand this concept? How can we get them to accept their privilege without feeling a sense of guilt?

Shaun: Some of how we get all people to understand privilege is simply to tell our story – one story at a time. I try to do that on Twitter and share stories of others I know. You can never truly understand how others feel, but at least being aware is a good start.

It's right there - Shaun tells us he is a story teller, and one with a very different perspective than the majority of people who read this blog and/or participate in the various discussions on diaries and front page posts that address the issue of police violence and racism.  It's a perspective based on his own personal experience of racism that few if any white people in America can truly understand.
The oppression of others by people in power is a very real thing. I’ve experienced it, witnessed it, and fought against it, publicly and privately, for my entire life. That won’t end, but today I want to talk with you about a widespread form of oppression that crushes dreams and ideas at their root, all over the world. Like a firehose to a small candle with a barely flickering flame, the oppression I want to talk about now is the self-inflicted type. It’s in your heart and mind. [...]

... High school in rural Versailles, Kentucky was brutal for me. In middle school I had starred in the school play, was Vice President of the Student Council, had a ton of friends, kept a girlfriend, and was pretty much the happiest 13 year old on earth. High school was a rude awakening for me. I quickly found myself in the middle of decades old racial tensions and became the focus of constant abuse of the resident rednecks of my school. I had half a dozen fights my freshman year, had a jar of tobacco spit thrown on me in the middle of the school day, and came a few feet away from being run over by a pickup truck full of guys who chased me down and nearly mauled me as I walked home from a school dance. I reported it to the school, having saw each guy in the car, but they did nothing about it.

A few months later, a group of guys in the school beat me within a few inches of my life. I missed the next 18 months of school recovering from three spinal surgeries and fractures to my face and ribs. I won’t even try here to explain the depths and extent of my physical and emotional pain, but it was brutal. [...]

The pain and the ugliness of my past impacted me in immeasurable ways, but I refused to be held captive by it.

So far as I can tell the worst thing he's allegedly done is use inflammatory language and hyperbole to criticize the actions of police officers who have killed unarmed black males.  He's angry at the injustice he sees, and he has a right to be angry.  He's never held himself out to be a neutral observer or an objective reporter when it comes to this topic, a topic that so many people in America want to sweep under the rug.  Police violence against black people demonstrates the impact of societal racism at its most basic, brutal and destructive level. People of color experience overt and systemic racism by law enforcement personnel and the criminal justice system in ways that are difficult for many among the majority white population to grasp. I am not going to condemn Shaun for doing his best, as he sees fit, to make the rest of us feel his own outrage at the oppression of people of color by the police.

Shaun King is at heart a muckraker. His goal is to wake people up to what has been an under reported and ongoing atrocity, one to which few major media outlets have ever bothered to devote significant resources because its a story their predominately white readers don't want to hear.  He tells the truth as he sees it, based on the facts he discovers from first hand or secondary sources.  He doesn't parse words, or have an editor review his copy.  You know where he's coming from.  

You can disagree with him all you like.  And criticisms of his posts based on incorrect facts or faulty analysis of those facts is fine by me.  But don't hold him to standards to which hardly anyone else here at Dkos is held because you don't like how he writes about racism.  Don't employ trivial, and to my mind, frivolous arguments, to condemn him and what he has to say.

Frankly, we have far more to be worried about from the media elites than people like Shaun, if you ask me.  You know what type of "reporting" I find outrageous, and more importantly, dangerous?  So-called professional journalists and pundits who pretend to be neutral and unbiased in their reporting, but are the exact opposite.

I'll give you the best example I can off the top of my head - Judith Miller's practice of "journalism" regarding about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein in 2002 and 2003.  Her reporting in the NY Times, the single most influential media publication in the country, aided and abetted war criminals.  She reported as fact lies told by key members of the Bush administration to her, lies that directly led to a war of aggression by the American government.  The consequences of her actions?  The deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, Iraqis and Americans combined.  A refugee crisis involving millions more. Trillions of dollars wasted.  A quagmire that continues to threaten the security of the Middle east and our own country.  So much for journalistic ethics and good practices.

Save your outrage for people like Judith Miller.  And if you believe Shaun King is too bombastic, or his writing puts you off, or if you believe his posts are "dangerous" then here's an easy solution for you - don't read him.

Reposted from Chitown Kev by Chitown Kev

And so it goes. Same as it ever was.

And I'm not simply talking about police officers getting away with killing (mostly) young black men but the incessant nitpicking of each and every case searching and not giving a damn about one dead black body piling up after another dead black body.

Of course, I know that each case is individual and argued on its' own merits but the pattern is clear.

American law enforcement seems to have no problem unleashing deadly force on black children and black people.

Samuel Jones at The Grio reminds us that as recently as 2006, The Federal Bureau of Investigation issued a warning that white supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan were increasingly seeking to "infiltrate" law enforcement.

The document that Jones refers to is a 7-page unclassified document published by the FBI.

White Supremacist Infiltration of Law Enforcement

White supremacists in law enforcement is nothing new of course; in part, the origins of organized police departments in America actually goes back to the slave patrols of colonial times.

One positively chilling aspect of this 2006 FBI report is the description of what white supremacists call "ghost skins."

Since coming to law enforcement attention in late 2004, the term "ghost skins" has gained currency among white supremacists to describe those who avoid overt displays of their beliefs to blend into society and covertly advance white supremacist causes.
I don't know who the white supremacists are in the police departments, DA offices, and judge's chambers of this country.

And neither do you.

They have assimilated.

And many of you--us--will be assimilated, at least if I am reading the comment sections of this supposedly progressive blog correctly.

I certainly do not (or should not) need to detail the history of white American police brutality against African Americans and other people of color.

But I do have to ask:

Is this the 21st century America that we want?

Is this the America that we want?

How about this? (yeah, Jon Burge is as disgusting as ever.)

Former convicted Area 2 Police Commander Jon Burge says he finds it “hard to believe” that Chicago’s “political leadership” could “even contemplate giving reparations to human vermin” like the “guilty vicious criminals” he tried to take off the streets.
Fucking animal.

Is this what America wants? Back to The Grio article.

This year, alone, at least seven San Francisco law enforcement officers were suspended after an investigation revealed they exchanged numerous “White Power” communications laden with remarks about “lynching African-Americans and burning crosses.” Three reputed Klan members that served as correction officers were arrested for conspiring to murder a black inmate. At least four Fort Lauderdale police officers were fired after an investigation found that the officers fantasized about killing black suspects.
Apparently so, if this 2014 Gallup Poll is to be believed.

Or at least that what a majority of white Americans seems to want.

Remember, these are the cases that have simply come to light.

How am I supposed to make distinctions whenever I meet a police officer; assimilation is the goal of the "ghost skins," right (assimilation wasn't always necessary mind you but we are post-racial nowadays, right)?

I would think that a progressive community would be at least as concerned about fast tracking some solutions and legislation to halt the spread of white supremacist "peace officers" and police departments as it is about stopping TPP.

Or maybe not.

So...just remember that the next time you clutch your pearls about the next Shaun King diary or you lament about not able to get working, hard-working class white folks to vote Democratic because of a black President or a burnt out CVS...

Remember that you built this.

Remember that you have been (or will be) assimilated.

Because I won't forget it.

I can't afford to.

Reposted from thirty three and a third by Denise Oliver Velez

Today in Ferguson 150 years after the Civil War we see "ghastly remnants of our great shame emerging still"/Lincoln warned of "national suicide" if we neglect to be a "nation of freemen"/Mark Twain's Huck Finn deciding to "go to hell" instead of turning in the "property" of his runaway slave friend Jim "may be the finest moment in all of American literature"/Our insistence on "Exceptionalism" blinds us to making necessary fixes/BlackLivesMatter because we have not achieved a post-racial society when institutional racism is still enshrined.

If you like to get a little history now and then from your tv on these United States (which I do and enjoy as a supplement to reading books) and are not a cave dweller in New Mexico or something then Ken Burns needs no introduction. He is an icon of documentary film-making, with techniques that have revolutionized the art of historical story-telling. His style is so well-known and vaunted in documentary film-making that one could say he's as much a standard as The Beatles "Sgt. Pepper" was to serious album-making (even the I-Photo program of Apple Mac's has a "Ken Burns effect" feature). Which is probably why he's been an exclusive part of a legacy that values nuanced and critical story-telling (PBS), rather than one that pumps out sensational and often jingoistic pap for the undiscerning (The History Channel).

Given that he occupies such strata through his lifetime devotion to history, his decision to lay bare the moment we find ourselves in, with respect to America perhaps finally coming to terms in grappling with, after a very long avoidance of, the malignancy of systemic racism, was a very powerful and instructive deed.

Powerful and salient he was in this remarkable commencement speech at Washington University in St. Louis. His choice of historical anecdotes and geographical context, perfectly harmonized with the events of today.  Of that he didn't mince words either, telling these young folks that he was "drafting them into a new Union Army." In that sense he is very much an advocate, an activist, if you will.

That's an important distinction. Where are our civic leaders, elected officials, journalists, celebrities, who are willing to unequivocally confront systemic institutional racism, enough to instigate the painful discussion and in turn force the subsequent legislation needed to once and for all remedy this?

There are so few amongst us willing to put themselves forward. It's an era of craven sellout, self-promotion and celebrity gossip. The vast majority of media outlets have made it clear too, that they're not in business to honor such a quaint idea as the Fourth Estate of journalism providing the checks and balances which quite literally are the lifeblood of democracy. Instead the landscape is littered with fear-mongering trash such as Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck et all, but also folks such as Wolf Blitzer, and the subservience of Meet The Press, CNN and the rest of network news.  

It is all the more significant that Burns chose to use his platform to courageously put the hard conversation front and center. For this he should be roundly applauded, and more importantly, imitated.

Here are some highlight of this poetic tour de force, in which he calls upon on the young graduates to respond collectively to this moral carpe diem, instead of the death of "careerism," by answering "the angels of our better nature" so we can fulfill at last the American promise of freedom and equality (all emphasis mine):


Over the years I've come to understand an important fact, I think: that we are not condemned to repeat, as the cliché goes and we are fond of quoting, what we don't remember. That's a clever, even poetic phrase, but not even close to the truth. Nor are there cycles of history, as the academic community periodically promotes. The Bible, Ecclesiastes to be specific, got it right, I think: "What has been will be again. What has been done will be done again. There is nothing new under the sun."

What that means is that human nature never changes. Or almost never changes. We have continually superimposed our complex and contradictory nature over the random course of human events. All of our inherent strengths and weaknesses, our greed and generosity, our puritanism and our prurience parade before our eyes, generation after generation after generation. This often gives us the impression that history repeats itself. It doesn't.

Lincoln's Springfield speech also suggests what is so great and so good about the people who inhabit this lucky and exquisite country of ours (that's the world you now inherit): our work ethic, our restlessness, our innovation and our improvisation, our communities and our institutions of higher learning, our suspicion of power; the fact that we seem resolutely dedicated to parsing the meaning between individual and collective freedom; that we are dedicated to understanding what Thomas Jefferson really meant when he wrote that inscrutable phrase "the pursuit of Happiness."

But the isolation of those two mighty oceans has also helped to incubate habits and patterns less beneficial to us: our devotion to money and guns; our certainty -- about everything; our stubborn insistence on our own exceptionalism, blinding us to that which needs repair, our preoccupation with always making the other wrong, at an individual as well as global level.

Before the enormous strides in equality achieved in statutes and laws in the 150 years since the Civil War that Lincoln correctly predicted would come are in danger of being undone by our still imperfect human nature and by politicians who now insist on a hypocritical color-blindness -- after four centuries of discrimination. That discrimination now takes on new, sometimes subtler, less obvious but still malevolent forms today. The chains of slavery have been broken, thank God, and so too has the feudal dependence of sharecroppers as the vengeful Jim Crow era recedes (sort of) into the distant past. But now in places like -- but not limited to -- your other neighbors a few miles as the crow flies from here in Ferguson, we see the ghastly remnants of our great shame emerging still, the shame Lincoln thought would lead to national suicide, our inability to see beyond the color of someone's skin. It has been with us since our founding...

But the shame continues: prison populations exploding with young black men, young black men killed almost weekly by policemen, whole communities of color burdened by corrupt municipalities that resemble more the predatory company store of a supposedly bygone era than a responsible local government. Our cities and towns and suburbs cannot become modern plantations.

It is unconscionable, as you emerge from this privileged sanctuary, that a few miles from here -- and nearly everywhere else in America: Baltimore, New York City, North Charleston, Cleveland, Oklahoma, Sanford, Florida, nearly everywhere else -- we are still playing out, sadly, an utterly American story, that the same stultifying conditions and sentiments that brought on our Civil War are still on such vivid and unpleasant display.

Twain, himself, writing after the Civil War and after the collapse of Reconstruction, a misunderstood period devoted to trying to enforce civil rights, was actually expressing his profound disappointment that racial differences still persisted in America, that racism still festered in this favored land, founded as it was on the most noble principle yet advanced by humankind -- that all men are created equal. That civil war had not cleansed our original sin, a sin we continue to confront today, daily, in this supposedly enlightened "post-racial" time.

It is into this disorienting and sometimes disappointing world that you now plummet, I'm afraid, unprotected from the shelter of family and school. You have fresh prospects and real dreams and I wish each and every one of you the very best. But I am drafting you now into a new Union Army that must be committed to preserving the values, the sense of humor, the sense of cohesion that have long been a part of our American nature, too. You have no choice, you've been called up, and it is your difficult, but great and challenging responsibility to help change things and set us right again.
Let me apologize in advance to you. We broke it, but you've got to fix it.

Let me speak directly to the graduating class. (Watch out. Here comes the advice.)

Remember: Black lives matter. All lives matter.

Reject fundamentalism wherever it raises its ugly head. It's not civilized. Choose to live in the Bedford Falls of "It's a Wonderful Life," not its oppressive opposite, Pottersville...

Don't confuse monetary success with excellence. The poet Robert Penn Warren once warned me that "careerism is death"...

Read. The book is still the greatest manmade machine of all -- not the car, not the TV, not the computer or the smartphone.

Do not allow our social media to segregate us into ever smaller tribes and clans, fiercely and sometimes appropriately loyal to our group, but also capable of metastasizing into profound distrust of the other...

Convince your government that the real threat, as Lincoln knew, comes from within. Governments always forget that, too. Do not let your government outsource honesty, transparency or candor. Do not let your government outsource democracy...

Insist that we support science and the arts, especially the arts. They have nothing to do with the actual defense of the country -- they just make the country worth defending...

And if you ever find yourself in Huck's spot, if you've "got to decide betwixt two things," do the right thing. Don't forget to tear up the letter. He didn't go to hell -- and you won't either.

Reposted from Diane Sweet's Blog by a2nite

According to Baltimore police, Freddie Gray was “irate” in a transport van after his arrest and they had to restrain him. However, that account is being challenged with the release by The Baltimore Sun today of a new video taken by a witness at the van's Baker and Mount Street stop.

In the video Gray is seen “halfway out of the van, his stomach flat on the floor, and his legs hanging off the back. He does not move as four officers stand over him and place shackles around his ankles.”

A police news release on April 16 stated that when the van departed from Mount and Baker streets, video evidence indicated that Gray was "conscious and speaking," yet it's not known what video the police are talking about. The account of the eyewitness who recorded the video reveals otherwise.

The Baltimore Sun reports:

The video shot by Gross' neighbor is distorted, and shows just a few seconds at the back of the van. As officers restrain Gray, the video shows another officer pull up in a patrol car, get out and walk toward the van. (The neighbor did not allow his name to be published because he feared retaliation by police, but Gross allowed The Sun to copy the video from her phone.)

At this point on the cell phone video, Gross yells to Gray, "You all right?" No response is detectable from the recording and Gross said she didn't hear Gray respond. Her neighbor yells, "Porter, can we get a supervisor up here please?" He said he was yelling at officer William Porter, who would be one of the six charged in the case.

The neighbor said Porter motioned to Rice, identifying him as the supervisor. On the video, the neighbor says, "Can we get someone else out here? This is not cool. This is not cool. Do you hear me?" The man's shouts are heard on the phone, but not the officers' responses.

The man said that Rice and other officers moved toward him, blocking his view of the van. They didn't ask him to stop recording, but Rice took out his Taser and threatened to use it if he didn't leave, the man said.

Due to those shackles and not wearing a seatbelt, Gray “suffered a severe and critical neck injury,” according to prosecutors.
Reposted from Vyan by Denise Oliver Velez

In the following clip from CNN in a discussion of how different the Police and media response has been to the mass murder spree and shootout by Waco Biker Gangs, contrasted to not just the so-called "Riots" but even the reaction to Non-Violent and Unarmed Citizens and Protestors in Ferguson and Baltimore, Former Police Officer Harry Hauck can hardly restrain himself from multiple diatribes which all essentially break down into Black Criminals make Cops Kill Them, without ever addressing the fact that White Offenders of far more heinous actions are repeatedly treated with kid gloves.

Via RawStory.

 Hauck then goes on to claim that the reason Black people, whether they are Non-violent protestors or not, are commonly called "Thugs" while two gangs of vicious White Murderers aren't is because of - well - Rap music.  Yes, really.

“I don’t know how you can make a comparison between Waco and Baltimore,” Houck complained. “Are these guys thugs? Yeah, they’re thugs… I use the word thug and I mean ‘bad guy’ when I use the word.”

I think the word was owned by rappers,” he continued. “They started coming out with songs and calling themselves thugs, and I think that’s how this whole thing started, with the black community and the young men calling themselves thugs. Alright? And I think that’s how that all started.”

Continued over the flip.
Continue Reading
Reposted from shaunking by a2nite
Malcolm X speaking in Los Angels on police brutality
Malcolm X speaking in Los Angeles on police brutality
On April 27, 1962, the LAPD murdered Brother Ronald Stokes, a friend of Malcolm X and a new member of the Nation of Islam. Ronald Stokes was a Korean War veteran. As many as seven other members of the Nation of Islam were shot by the LAPD as well. In the aftermath of that shooting, Malcolm X traveled to Los Angeles to address the plague of police brutality and how the media misrepresents the dangers of black men in ways that justify the police murders of African Americans across the country.

The entire speech is powerful, but in the excerpt below, Malcolm X speaks words that shockingly relevant today. It's powerful to hear them, because they apply so much to our current reality, but they are also disappointing because they reveal just how little things have changed.

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