Friday, August 29, 2014

Freedom

Richie Havens in Bethel, New York for Woodstock's 40th Anniversary. 

Laid To Rest

Michael Brown was laid to rest on August 25th, 2014 in a service attended by thousands of well-wishers including members of Congress, a representative from the White House and Obama administration, renowned civil rights leaders, film director Spike Lee noticeably in attendance, the parents of Trayvon Martin, and the children of Dr. Martin Luther Jr.



Among these many, many people who traveled into Ferguson to pay their respects, hip hop artists Talib Kweli & Rosa Clemente who speak out on Ferguson in this short video clip:

 

Below, Ferguson residents share the common experience of being racially profiled by police, and in an area where that profiling also provides a major source of funding for the city budget.  At around 8 minutes into the video, residents also confront Mayor Mike Knowles about a city which he has described as having "no racial divide," while the individuals speaking to him obviously feel differently, along with many of the thousands of protesters of all races and backgrounds, and over the last few weeks.

 

Below, the extended video coverage of the much discussed death of Kajieme Powell (alert: graphic, disturbing images) - a young Saint Louis man, distraught and seemingly suicidal after attending his mother's funeral that day; i.e. he went into the street shouting "Shoot me! Shoot me!" and, indeed, the police very quickly shot him, on the rationale that he was holding some kind of knife, which I understand was a kitchen or butter knife, if you could even see that item in his hand.  This young black man was also shot repeatedly, and then, in an even more surreal moment in the video, the police handcuff his dead body - ever more graphically demonstrating a total failure in human perception with respect to the real risks involved.  (And since obviously a dead body poses no risks requiring handcuffs .. unless we're watching ...  a Steven King thriller?)  It's as if the police are completely on automatic pilot - like Robo Cops - fully divorced from reality.  Rather than responding as the trained peace officers we should be able to expect, with community relations skills, psychology training and deployment of critical thinking.


  

In which case, what could that scene look like, instead? 

Discussion by Thom Hartman on how U.K. police disarm individuals holding knives, and even machetes;  i.e. for the most part, non-violently - working to first defuse the situation, giving the individual a certain amount of supervised space, versus closing in - which escalates and mounts tension - then engaging in conversation and trying to get the person to voluntarily put down any possible weapon, and before they move in to disarm - in which case, they use non-deadly means such as tasers or pepper spray/mace, not gun fire.

Indeed, lawyer Mike Papantonio, Ring of Fire radio host points out just how rapidly these officers reacted with gun fire to Kajieme Powell - within about 15 seconds of their arrival, he was dead.  He describes this as part of this "Rambo mentality" that we "cook up" like something out of a Bruce Willis or Rambo movie.  It's not based on a realistic assessment of threat leading to an appropriate form of police response.  It not only demonstrates what many describe as a total failure of communication, it shows this total failure of perception.  We're watching police officers - people in our society vested with a tremendous amount of public trust - yet, in this case, they appear to be functioning in the equivalent of a fantasy world - more like a Hollywood action film than real life.




Back in the Michael Brown story, a minor who wasn't armed, and who was, at the most, jaywalking, a grand jury of nine whites and three African Americans now meets to determine whether or not Officer Darren Wilson should be indicted on criminal charges. (And, as also discussed in the Thom Hartmann segment.) 

An indictment requires that nine reach the same conclusion - that Wilson "knowingly caused death to Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager."

The grand jury meets once a week and is expected to need weeks or months to reach a conclusion.

From ABC 7 (includes video at link)
How much justice can we expect coming from a grand jury, since the prosecuting attorney not only decides what evidence is presented, what charges are considered, who testifies, and - to top it off - instructs jurors on applicable law?
"A prosecutor can get whatever he or she wants out of that grand jury," said [law professor Byron Warnken] - and that, he says, makes for perfect cover for a prosecuting attorney, especially one confronted with a racially charged case. He can blame the grand jury for the final decision.

So, Michael Brown's body was laid to rest this week, but what will happen in America, and in the months ahead, with this issue? 


8.29.2014 Editor's Note. This blog piece contains several minor editorial corrections.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

#Ferguson Challenge

More comedy and social satire as Jon Stewart returns (August 26th show) with an extended *what is stupid* in mainstream news coverage on the past few weeks in Ferguson.  (And if I didn't have people like Jon and friends to tell me about it, I couldn't otherwise bear to watch it, myself.)

 

Senior Missouri Correspondent Michael Che gets in on the act, too, as he searches far and wide for a safe place from the "Shoot Me, State" - and starting out first in lovely southern California ..


 
Are we there, yet, Mainstream News?

John Oliver also takes a good long look at Ferguson and with a youtube currently watched by more than 3,500,000 people. 


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Jobs

Heavy metal comedian and social satirist Steve Hughes takes on the growing job crisis and the need for an unconditional basic income.

Myths vs Facts

A wonderful and enlightening presentation by Federico Pistono on an unconditional basic income (U.B.I., a.k.a. Basic Income Guarantee, B.I.G.), and at the Future of Work Summit at NASA Ames Research Park in California, June, 2014.  Also spotted in attendance with some questions for Mr. Pistono, former NAACP President Ben Jealous.



Editor's Note 8.27.2014

For some reason, the comment response button isn't posting my reply to Jack Saturday's comment below.  (Unless it's suddenly going to post it 3 or 4 times later....)  

He mentions recognizing Dr. James Hughes (IEET) and Michael Albert (Z Magazine) in the audience (see comment).  That seems to be correct, though I don't see their name tags.   I looked again more closely at the video and do spot name tags on others asking questions.  Those individuals include Erik Brynjolfsson of M.I.T., Salim Ismail, now with Singularity University, and Technology and Engineering Emmy Award Winner Philip Rosendale of Virtual World "Second Life."  

Jack Saturday, thanks for your comment.  I hope the identification of these cutting edge thinkers inspires others to view the video presentation on guaranteed basic income. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Hands Up! Don't Shoot!

Linked in this post and shown below, some of the news coverage of the last couple of weeks in Ferguson, Missouri where unarmed 17 year old Michael Brown was gunned down in the street by police officer Darren Wilson in front of eyewitnesses.  The Saint Louis teen was in town visiting his grandmother just days before beginning college, with an autopsy confirming reports that he had been shot at least 6 times, also showing that he was shot twice by Wilson in the head.  

The teen and a friend were walking in a quiet street when they were trailed by Darren Wilson in a police vehicle and told to get off the street.  Somehow Michael Brown wound up inside the vehicle with the police officer, a struggle ensued, and the teen got away, fleeing the officer, still unarmed, and before he was shot and killed from a distance.  Here, Michael Brown's friend tells press what happened.

As a horrified community gathered on August 9th at the grisly scene, authorities then left the teen's dead body lying in the middle of the street for at least several hours:

One young witness was on twitter when he saw Michael Brown shot and killed, sequentially reporting his observations in real time, as the gun was fired again and again and again into Michael Brown's body, and then, while confined to his nearby building by police, as he continued to witness the slain teen's father arrive and react.
 
Community leaders have been demanding that the officer in question be arrested for murder and that Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson resign.  Currently, Wilson has been on paid administrative leave, and Wednesday, as Attorney General Eric Holder arrived in town, having promised action, a grand jury has been scheduled to convene that same day in an investigation that could reportedly take months, while a police union representative stepped forward to (ironically) urge respect for Darren Wilson's due process rights.  
 
A number of civil rights leaders (e.g. Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton, and Philip Agnew of Dream Defenders, among others) have flown into Ferguson, marching and meeting with community residents. 




Michael Brown's parents at a rally in Ferguson:
 
Some discussion of various issues below by local community leaders and activists:



Protests have been taking place day and night in this Missouri area just outside Saint Louis where most residents are black, yet practically all police officers are white.  Racism is reportedly such an issue in the local police department that one of the few African American police officers in Ferguson, 27 year veteran Captain Ron Johnson, was himself moved to join in with the marching protesters before taking a lead community role urging calm, speaking at a local church gathering, and later seen negotiating order between demonstrators and law enforcement authorities.  

Photo from a livestream:

Some Ferguson protest scenes below, including a makeshift voter registration table urging civic involvement.  Protesters also turned out the following morning to help clean up from protests the night before.



 
The raised matter of calm appeared questionable, as most protesters have been peaceful, with the issues they demand justice on, quite legitimate.  On looting, interestingly enough, Walmart electronics was reported as a major Ferguson target - perhaps what really inspired this massive militarized show of force - against people for things - not even against looters, but citizens exercising their Constitutional rights.  

Indeed, many of these protesters were observed protecting smaller businesses seemingly before the police did so, the police at that point, seemingly more concerned with the marchers - any looters, by then, the raison d'ĂȘtre for quashing innocent protesters' Constitutional rights. 

Below, Ferguson Market shown protected by "Hands Up! Don't Shoot!" protesters:

In the tweet below, community members peacefully but firmly protect a local beauty business:

I don't know if the following photo shows the same beauty business, or a different small beauty business, but this later tweet shows police in charge of guarding a local beauty business,
 
Walmart, now shown below, after massive militarized police response was summoned, and while meanwhile, over in Ohio, a 21 year old Walmart customer is shot and killed by a policeman in the store.


Protests against Michael Brown's killing spread quickly throughout the U.S., from New York City, where numbers swelled considerably, to a light brigade over a midwestern highway, a silent Pacific Northwest vigil, and captured with a defiant fist thrust in the air, to New Orleans where protesters (seen in the youtube below) entered the police department itself vigorously chanting, "Hands Up! Don't Shoot!" - while holding their hands up in surrender - and expressing the unified sentiment of this coast-to-coast outcry - that an unarmed individual who had, at the most, been jaywalking, had, for all purposes, been summarily executed for doing so, in the middle of that street, in the United States of America.  Most certainly, among reasons, because he was black, and the police officer, a white racist.






 
The racists of all racists seemed to agree, declaring with their usual ugliness that they were heading into Ferguson, and that they were fundraising for Wilson:


 
In all fairness to descriptions of public sentiment, the Pew Research Institute released poll results showing that whites tend to view race as an all-too-pervasive emphasis in the Ferguson story, while blacks tend to view race as all-too-relevant to the issues.



Here, I'm not sure what happened to all the other groups.  The poll also does not indicate, on the "face of things," whether or not subjects saw their own due process rights at issue in discussion (and as to what must surely and also concern penalties for jaywalking).  

For a great deal of mainstream coverage centered on the growing militarization of police departments around the U.S., and as the police response in Ferguson often resembled more of a military response to demonstrators protected under the First Amendment, than an initial response to angry looters and occasional bottle throwers.  For example, while some certainly resembled police officers (engaged in a questionable crackdown nevertheless, along with now widely criticized police training),


 
others, like county police, appeared virtually indistinguishable, at a close distance, from U.S. armed servicemen setting foot in .. perhaps Iraq?  The uncomfortable collective sentiment, that they were being set down, this time, say, not on foreign soil, but amidst their very own fellow Americans .. and to quell Constitutionally protected and legitimately growing dissent.  



In the meantime, more journalists were cursed, threatened, and arrested, and Amnesty International observers came in,



 
All, too, as *armed forces* shot at peaceful protesters and journalists, among other projectiles, late Cold War era tear gas canisters landing on residential streets and front yards, and as citizens fled, collected, photographed, tweeted, and analyzed the remnants.




 
The short end of that tale that, not only is this stuff "no joke," to begin with, but that stuff was phased out by the U.S. in favor of "safer gas," though it landed in the hands of Yemini security forces, too, who used it against spring 2011 protesters "causing extreme reactions including convulsions and muscle spasms. The physical effects among protesters were so severe that they initially believed they were being hit with nerve gas."

So went the response in Ferguson, Missouri to justifiable community outrage, and even as the majority of U.S. protesters were non-violent, with many restoring any needed order themselves. A curfew, also known as martial law, was imposed by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon under wide spread criticism, opposed and then removed, while the National Guard was also summoned in.

The hauntingly eloquent J. Cole Michael Brown tribute, Be Free, that has gone viral:

Sunday, August 17, 2014

To Wrestle The World From Fools

Patti Smith in People Have The PowerWritten by Patti Smith and Fred Smith.  With montage and lyric captions from Nick Ziggy.


Happy 79th Birthday, Social Security!

August 14th marked social security's 79th birthday, the public retirement program courageously signed into law in 1935 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and radically reducing poverty among American seniors by providing a guaranteed basic income:



Social Security Works marked the occasion this year by urging expansion and releasing a series of reports with the Alliance For Retired Americans showing the importance of social security in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and four territories. 

“Social Security is one of the most successful programs in America’s history,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance For Retired Americans. “With pensions disappearing, it’s harder than ever for workers to save for retirement. We need to strengthen and expand Social Security, not cut it.”  

According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute in 2013, 1/2 of Americans today have less than $10,000 in savings, and only 14% are "very confident" they will have enough money to retire.  These figures arrive amidst new data from the Federal Reserve showing, too, that an increasing number of workers have been retiring earlier due to the Great Recession.

From eNews Park Forest:
This trend comes despite polling suggesting that an increasing number of workers approaching retirement age intend to delay retirement and stay on the job longer in order to make ends meet. The conflicting data suggests that thousands of older workers who lost jobs in the Great Recession may have simply retired instead of continuing to look for work or settle for low paying jobs. Coupled with recent polling in which nearly 1 in 5 workers between the ages of 55 and 64 said they had nothing saved for retirement, the new Fed data points to an increasingly difficult environment for American retirees.
Birthday celebrations took place across the country.  A couple of youtube below;  local coverage from Green Bay, Wisconsin:



Comments at a New Hampshire gathering:


 


Poetry

Lillian Allen in No Home.

 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Free At Last

Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise Departs Murmansk 

The Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise has finally departed the Russian city of Murmansk almost a year after it was seized by Russian authorities in the Pechora Sea during a Greenpeace protest against the first Arctic oil drilling.  Russian authorities arrested and imprisoned 28 protesters and 2 journalists, all of whom were eventually released in December 2013 as part of the sweeping Russian amnesty bill that freed at least 25,000 Russian prisoners including the Arctic 30 (as the group came to be known) along with Pussy Riot.* 

The mood was high-spirited and merry on twitter;  crew members reclaimed the deck, declaring their firm intention to return to the Arctic to continue protesting; in the tweets shown below, among the many activists and celebrities sharing their support, Michelle Thrush along with Emma Thompson and her daughter;  more photos here.
  




Greenpeace spokesperson Faiza Oulahsen said:
“When the captain and crew boarded the Arctic Sunrise they found it in a bad state, with no maintenance for 10 months, and the ship’s navigation, communications and safety systems either removed or destroyed.
“The Arctic Sunrise is now headed for Amsterdam, where the ship will need to undergo extensive repairs, so that it can get back to protecting the Arctic from reckless oil companies like Shell and Gazprom”.
 

*With the U.S.A. having the largest prison industrial complex in the world, we Americans are still waiting on a similarly sweeping amnesty which requires even higher figures, statistically, to be freed now, considering the total population unjustly incarcerated in this nation.

**Photo credit, top, via Greenpeace, the newly freed Arctic Sunrise vessel departs Murmansk.