Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Chelsea Manning, Dianne Feinstein and the Far Right's Magic "T" Word

by Nomad

Formerly known as Bradley, Chelsea Manning turned 27 years old earlier this month. He really doesn't have a lot to celebrate. Without a presidential pardon, the military whistle-blower who was convicted on 20 of 22 counts cannot expect to be a free person until he reaches the age of 63.

His crime is familiar to all of us now. He dared to disclose to the public that the US army, the CIA and Iraqi and Afghan forces committed human rights violations.
That was something that Manning never denied. When investigations tracked him down, he admitted to sending Wiki Leaks more than 700,000 confidential files, including U.S. embassy cables, Guantanamo detainee profiles, and footage of airstrikes that killed civilians. 

Unlike many famous spies of the past, his rationale wasn't based on ideological support of America's enemy, like the Rosenbergs or Jonathan Jay Pollard, and it wasn't based on some financial motive, like John Anthony Walker, Jr
In many ways, Manning is a prisoner of conscience.

Monday, December 29, 2014

How Christian Right's Defense of Family Helps Hide Russia's Biggest Problems

by Nomad

The same political evangelicals who have wasted taxpayer's money in the US are taking the Christian Right's homophobic defense of family show to Russia.

And there's a good reason why Putin and the Russian government supports the extreme conservative propaganda.

Back in February, Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council (FRC), a far right Christian political organization, declared that the American Economy was doomed. It was only a matter of time.
The cause for the meltdown?  America's acceptance of gay rights, naturally.

Perkins' American Apocalypse 
In case you don't know, the Family Research Council- a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) charity- lobbies in Washington against all things homosexual in the name of supporting family values. "Homosexual conduct is," according to the FRC, "harmful to the persons who engage in it and to society at large, and can never be affirmed." 

Perkins' argument that acceptance of gay equality can actually cause the economy to tank is a new one. It works like this: Gay rights, Perkins predicts, will weaken the nation to such a point that Russia and China will feel emboldened to drop the dollar as an international currency standard. American money will be worthless.
Thereafter every time you open your purse or wallet all you will hear is a flushing sound.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Happy Holidays from Nomadic Politics

by Nomad

Torture vs Medical Ethics: Should Doctors that Assisted in CIA interrogations be Held Accountable?

by Nomad

Dick Cheney recently claimed that controversial procedures applied to detainees were a medically necessity. Experts dispute this and call for a full investigation of possible ethics violation and crimes committed by contracted physicians. 

Cheney's Attempt at Damage Control
Recently, ex-vice president Dick Cheney appeared on MSNBC's "Meet the Press." Following the release of the Senate report on CIA detention and interrogation program. Cheney was in full damage control mode.
In spite of his attempt, it was pretty clear that the master manipulator's tricks had worn tissue thin. 

During the interview, Cheney repeatedly tried in vain to use 911 as an excuse for what went on behind prison walls. Nobody has ever argued that the detainees were nice people but without a trial, they were still innocent. Nobody has ever argued that the things done on September 11 2001 should be forgotten or that we must do everything- within the law- to stop attacks.
Nevertheless, Cheney's argument was that the ends justified the means, even when those means included torture (as defined by various international treaties that the US is a party to.)

All in all, even Cheney's supporters were embarrassed by what amounted to what can charitably called "misrepresentations." When asked about one of the more inexcusable techniques used by the CIA, namely "rectal feeding  and "rectal hydration"

Cheney claimed these procedures were done only as a medical necessity.  Michael Hayden, former CIA director recently used the same rebuttal to torture allegations.

The Experts Respond
Of course, the defense was ridiculous but it also opened the door for yet another problem for the CIA and its contracted physicians. 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Auld Lang Syne: European Courts and the Right to Be Forgotten

by Nomad

Censorship One of Internet's biggest stories of the year went practically unnoticed in the American press. A European court ordered Google to provide a means for individuals to control what has been written online about them.
At least, the ruling says, search engines cannot help search engine users find that information.

The desire to be remembered is, generally speaking, something most of us aspire to. However, when it comes to our online footprint, there are a lot of people who would strongly prefer to be forgotten. Although the event cannot entirely be erased from the vast public forum known as the Net, then at least we can try to separate our names (and our reputations) from the information. 

Should that photo of you when you weighed as much as a Volkswagen be a burden you must carry forever? Must a teenage shoplifter who has changed her ways in adulthood have the details of her pop up every time she looks for a new job? Should an admitted wife-beater have one incident ruin the rest of his life? What about a convicted bank embezzler who has served his time, does he have the right to be forgotten?

Making good use of a seasonal reference, we might ask:
Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Black Hole - A Short Film

by Nomad

I thought you might enjoy something non-political. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Russian Cat Arrests: Pedigree Pussies Snatched in Lieu of Unpaid Taxes

by Nomad

A recent news story about Russian tax officials and cats as tax dodges exposes a badly-kept secret about the Russian economy. Corruption and widespread tax evasion has made real development next to impossible. The question is now whether Putin is really prepared to risk tackling the problem or not?

Here's a story from the St. Petersburg Times that caught my eye.

Herding Cats for Mother Russia
When Russian tax collectors demanded that a Novosibirsk resident pay back taxes of about 12,000 rubles  or (as of this minute) about $198, he explained the he had no money and no assets for them to take. So, The state tax officials threatened to seize the man's pedigree cat and its three kittens.

Russians have had to find creative ways to hide their already dwindling cash reserves. Apparently one way, tax inspectors claim, is to invest in expensive breeds of cats. According to the Interfax News agency,
When collection officials arrived at the young man's apartment, they initially found nothing to seize for his tax appears because the man was living with his parents, attended college and had no regular income, the Novosibirsk region's court marshals service was cited as saying in a statement by Interfax.

"Then a bailiff noticed a beautiful cat that the debtor was holding in his arms, and three small kittens of a British breed that were running around the house," the statement was quoted as saying. "Because the animals are pedigree and expensive, the representative of the law decided to place the cat brood under arrest."
The threat was enough to shake the loose change from the pet owner's pockets. As the bailiff was filling out the seizure order, the man unexpectedly found the money to pay his debt.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Why the Cuban Thaw Puts GOP in Danger of Losing Corporate Sponsors

by Nomad

Rejecting Obama's new policy for Cuba could be the biggest political blunder the Republican Party could make.
In 2016, American corporations will not forget or forgive who put the brakes on the significant business opportunities in Havana.

It's obvious that Republicans hate everything President Obama does. It's hard for them to deny it. And why should they? Being against President Obama has always been a vote catcher. Fox News misrepresents the issue, the Internet sites stir up the hate, the Republicans get the support from the un-informed voters and their corporate sponsors dish out the cash to ensure the Republican Congress will happily vote accordingly. It's a beautiful little machine.

Let the Rants Begin!

So it was no great surprise that when the president announced a restoration of diplomatic ties with Cuba, Republican politicians began to rant and foam at the mouth. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Approved Speech: Tennessee Town Bans Negative Remarks and Criticism on Social Media

by Nomad

Yesterday we reported how one Russian governor decided that the best way of handling the national economic crisis was by banned the use of the word "crisis." 
Such a backward idea, right?

Well, Americans shouldn't laugh too hard at those crazy Ruskies. Bloomberg recently reported that a similar effort in Tennessee to silence discussion that local government approves of. 

No Expectation of Privacy Whatsoever
Earlier this month, the town of South Pittsburg, Tennessee, near Chattanooga, passed a resolution that prohibits anybody professionally connected to South Pittsburg, from “publicly discuss[ing] information about other employees and/or volunteers not approved for public communication” on social media. This includes employees, volunteers, and contractors. 

The resolution also wags a finger against posting anything on a personal Facebook page or on Twitter that anybody might consider either defamatory or libelous. The policy states that citizens "should have no expectation of privacy whatsoever."

The Chatanooga Times Free Press supports the Bloomberg piece:
It applies to all city elected representatives, appointed board members, employees, volunteers, vendors, contractors and anyone associated with the town in an official capacity who uses social networks. The policy says those persons can't post anything negative about the city, its employees or other associates.
The officials said that the tough policy was necessary because over the past year, their work has been "hampered by criticism and lies on social media."
Mayor Jane Dawkins defended the action, saying that this was "not a new concept." 
Nobody is arguing that. The question is whether it is legal or wise.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Russian Governor Decides Banning a Word is One Way to Deal with Economy in Free Fall

by Nomad

When you happen to live in a country where the media is under the near-absolute control of the government, how would you know with utter certainty that your motherland is in the middle of a major crisis? 
It's all very simple, comrade.

An Inconvenient Moment 
An article in Russia Today provides us with the answer to the question above. While the world's news media are using words like "free-fall" and "meltdown" to describe the present state of the Russian economy, some officials inside the country have found a novel way to control the discussion:
Authorities in the Central Russia’s Kaluga Region have banned the use of the word ‘crisis’ in public and the measure is already helping to attract investors, according to the local governor.
The governor of Kaluga Oblast, Anatoly Artamonov, told the Russian News Service  
“It is possible that the crisis exists, but we forbid the use of this word.”
Artamonov preferred to use the term  "an inconvenient moment" to describe the historic crash of the Russian currency, which, despite all efforts by the Central Bank, has plunged more than 20% in just one day.

Why Immunity for Bush and Cheney May Not Be the Final Word

by Nomad

Claims of immunity might have so far protected former Bush officials (including the ex-president and former vice president Dick Cheney) but as this post explains, treaty obligations demand that action be taken. 

In light of the revelations of CIA torture, some people have rightfully begun asking why the people involved- who have admitted that they authorized the interrogation techniques- should not be held accountable. Isn't it clear that the things done were illegal? 
How is it possible that a US government official, like Dick Cheney, can escape accountability even though he/she had all but admitted human rights crimes, as defined by international standards
The exact legal means for escaping accountability wasn't recently devised especially for the Bush administration. It was, in fact,  established back in 1988.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Look at Obama's Progress on Homelessness In the Face of Conservative Parsimony

by Nomad

Let's begin with something obvious but often forgotten. Everybody has a story, even the homeless.

How Conservatives Dealt with Problems
The conservative news media channels like Fox News has repeatedly declared that homelessness under Obama has increased. Things they say, are far worse now because of liberal policies. Things were so much better, so the narrative goes, under Reagan. 
In fact, this is a usual type of lie promoted by the "fair and balanced" network.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Free and Downloadable: Senate Report on CIA Detention and Interrogation Program

by Nomad

As any techno-activist will tell you "information wants to be free." To honor that idea, I have made available the Senate's controversial report that has been creating some fearsome aftershocks since last Tuesday. 

One week ago, the Senate released its so-called CIA torture report. It strongly criticized the policy of "enhanced interrogations" for captured detainees and suspected terrorists. After a lengthy investigation, the summary alone came to over 500 pages. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Human Rights: What Your Government Doesn't Want You to Know

by Nomad

How can human rights be upheld when so few people are even aware of what they actually entail?
How can governments be held accountable when they have convinced their citizens that there may be certain times and certain situations when humans don't deserve their inherent rights?

Ideals that Bind Us Together

What with the revelations of last week, most people in the US might have missed the fact that last Wednesday was an important date. In 1950, the United Nations designated October 10 "Human Rights Day." Admittedly, every day should be a human rights day, this particular day is meant to remind us 
"that each one of us, everywhere, at all times is entitled to the full range of human rights, that human rights belong equally to each of us and bind us together as a global community with the same ideals and values."
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called upon member nations 
"to honour their obligation to protect human rights every day of the year. I call on people to hold their governments to account. "
Only the day before, the Senate released a demoralizing and shocking report on CIA practices during the Bush Administration. It revealed to the American people and to the whole world even a superpower could justify the shocking forms of torture.
So, these allegations of violations of human rights could not possibly have come at a worse time.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Motivated!: George W. Bush and the Hucksters

by Nomad

Last month, I saw an article that I have been meaning to pass along to you. 
First, here's some information about what it means, financially speaking, to be an ex-president.  

The Financial Joys of Being an Ex-President
According to CNN, when a president leaves the White House he remains on the government payroll, receiving an annual pension of about $200,000, health care, paid official travel and an office. The rent on a office fit for an ex-president has to impress and therefore tends to be both swanky and pricey. (The rent on Clinton's New York City offices reportedly run at half a million.) 
All of these it's probably needless to say are taxpayer-funded benefits.

Even for a person as illiterate and as bumbling as George W. Bush, apparently there are plenty of people out there that still can't get enough of the man. His last book, (in which he boasted-among other things- of authorizing torture) reportedly earned him $7 million for the first 1.5 million copies of "Decision Points." (Without the benefit of the conservative book selling tricks, Clinton bested Bush with his own memoirs which netted him $15 million advance.)

Then there is the speech-making circuit. It's not exactly hard work but it is an easy way to earn a year's salary in a day. George Bush, since leaving office has made a tidy fortune.

Getting Motivated!
Ok, now for the story I was telling you about.
Joseph L. Flatley, writing for Whowhatwhy.com, learned how former president George W. Bush found another way to supplement his income since he  moved out of the White House. (Although it is not particularly new news, I thought you'd find it interesting.)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Showdown: Why the Truth on CIA Torture May Become Obama's Greatest Challenge

by Nomad

No nation is perfect. But one of the strengths that makes America exceptional is our willingness to openly confront our past, face our imperfections, make changes and do better. -- President Obama on the release of Senate Intelligence Committee's CIA use of enhanced interrogation techniques

This week, in the hallowed halls of Congress, a moan and a shudder could be heard when the Senate released its findings on the truly horrifying excesses of CIA interrogations used upon suspected terrorists following the 911 attacks. 

The Narrative Dissolves
A quick review of the 600-page executive summary of the report explained why Republicans had been doing all they could to block its release. From torture techniques that involved threats to suspect's children and forced enemas, ice water baths and threats to use drills as torture devices, to CIA lies about the successes, the report could hardly be more damaging to the Republican narrative. 

The New York Times has helpfully made a list of the most important findings:
  • The C.I.A.’s interrogation techniques were more brutal and employed more extensively than the agency portrayed.
  • The C.I.A. interrogation program was mismanaged and was not subject to adequate oversight.
  • The C.I.A. misled members of Congress and the White House about the effectiveness and extent of its brutal interrogation techniques.
  • Interrogators in the field who tried to stop the brutal techniques were repeatedly overruled by senior C.I.A. officials.
  • The C.I.A. repeatedly under-reported the number of people it detained and subjected to harsh interrogation techniques under the program.
  • At least 26 detainees were wrongfully held and did not meet the government’s standard for detention.
  • The C.I.A. leaked classified information to journalists, exaggerating the success of interrogation methods in an effort to gain public support.
The Washington Post has also compiled a list of the most egregious acts found in report. Here are some of the items:
For the more cynical, the fact that the report was released at all is a bit of a shock. Certainly it is long overdue and could easily have been classified so utterly that the American public- at least this generation- would never have seen it. 
Its release also turns the tables on a lot of the Republican talking points about exposing the imaginary scandal of Benghazi. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

How We Came to Accept Police Brutality as the Norm 2/2

by Nomad

In Part One of this two part series we discussed the origins of the present problem between the black community and law enforcement. Reagan's get-tough on crime was based on a theory that came with some direct warnings about the potential for discrimination. The president chose to ignore them.

Reagan's anti-crime crusade led to giving law enforcement more freedom to do their job. At least that was how it was portrayed in conservative circles at the time. That policy was called "pro-active policing." 

Problems with Pro-Active Policing
An  ultra-conservative American libertarian think tank, The Cato Institute, paints a very different picture of the policy today. A site run by that organization, which attempts to highlight police misconduct, describes pro-active policing as..
the use of nearly autonomous elite police units that are trained to be more aggressive than regular officers as a response to gang and drug related violence by targeting people they suspect of being criminals before they commit crimes. These units are encouraged to use whatever tactics they can get away with in order to get results, those results being a high arrest rate.
Like the later preemptive strike doctrine of the Bush era, it is easy to see in retrospect how easily pro-active policing could be abused. The danger of this practice was that notion that police should be responsible for preventing crime before it happens. How is that even possible? 
Well, one description might remind you of the sci-fi film "Minority Report"
In proactive policing, law enforcement uses data and analyzes patterns to understand the nature of a problem. Officers devise strategies and tactics to prevent or mitigate future harm. They evaluate results and revise practices to improve policing. Departments may combine an array of data with street intelligence and crime analysis to produce better assessments about what might happen next if they take various actions.
This high tech description however tends to gloss over the more controversial aspect, a highly visible street presence which is intended to intimidate criminals before they commit crimes.  The more intimidating, the better.
Ironically, what developed over time was a gang mentality of thugs within the police force.
These teams tend to be close-knit and insular, trained to use highly aggressive tactics with very little oversight, and taught to think and act like the gang members and drug dealers they investigate while under cover.
In other words, the balance between the lawless and the lawful was so blurred that it was difficult to see which element was the greater threat to the community. The police force- especially when made up of white officers- took all of the appearances (as well as the mentality) of an occupying military.  

Monday, December 8, 2014

How We Came to Accept Police Brutality as the Norm 1/2

by Nomad

With all the protests around the country against abusive law enforcement, it is a good time to ask how we as a country got into this situation. Is it simply a matter of racism permeating police departments or does it go deeper?
With all of the safeguards hard-wired into the Constitution, how could we have allowed it to happen?

A Simple Question of Trust
Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is in an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.    Frederick Douglas
There's been a lot of superficial analysis about the reasons for the nationwide protests in the wake of the Brown and Garner cases. The fact that US law enforcement can literally get away with murdering unarmed citizens in front of witnesses has shocked the nation. 
(In fact this phenomenon has been going on for decades and if anything, the patience of the black community is the truly surprising aspect.) 

Racism in the country's police departments has been blamed. A broken-down justice system has also been pointed to. In fact, it's all of those things but there's a deeper problem as well:  A lack of trust in the law enforcement agencies by the black and minority communities. 
This lack of trust has been further reinforced by a lack of credibility of the oversight process after possible violations have occurred.
It's not something that should be under-estimated. Trust is the glue that holds the entire justice system together. Without trust, the entire structure of law and order collapses pretty quickly. Now America has begun to question whether we might not have bestowed too much trust in law enforcement.  

Every time a case of police brutality goes unpunished, it becomes a double failure for the entire justice system. Firstly, from the offense itself and secondly, by the damage it does to public trust.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Teddy Roosevelt and the Death Knell of the Republic

by Nomad

Roosevelt Teddy Quotation Justice

It often surprises me how clear-sighted so many of our leaders of the past seemed compared to the muddled-headed ideas of the present day. The fight against oligarchy and corporate-rigging of our political system did not begin with this generation. We have walked this way about a century ago. However, because of the general ignorance of our own history, we have been deprived of the wisdom and support of our elders. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Cable News in Decline: Here's Why Time is Running Out for Fox News

by Nomad

If the capitalist model is based on supply and demand, what will happen when there is nobody left to buy your product? That the situation facing Fox News.

Fox News, as one writer noted,  has built its success by "selling a conservative political product to an older audience."
The average age of the audience is over 68 years old. That's average, mind you. Not only are the Fox News viewers the oldest, they are also  the most misinformed. They are also likely to remain that way the longer they continue to watch. 
In many ways, tuning into Fox News is a lifestyle choice. The average viewer of the channel tends not to have an active agenda and can devote much more time watching television news. On the other hand, a younger audience would more likely spend more time on the Internet or engaging with people socially.

Frank Rich, writing for New York Magazine, called Fox News a politically conservative 'retirement community.' When looking at the long-term viability of the network, that's something to consider.

The Slow Sinking of the Viewership

Last spring it was reported that the ratings for the cable news channel for the ideal consumer (25-54 age group) is at its lowest point in 12 years. As one blogger pointed out:
The average age of Bill O'Reilly's audience is a shocking 72.1 years old. Well, Megyn Kelly (perhaps because of that hip "y" in her first name) has brought that figure all the way down to 71.7 years old. That's a decrease of 0.4 years—almost 5 months younger! At this rate, they should make it to that prime 25-54 demographic some time in the year 2525. (If man is still alive!)
Programming executives at the network must be scrambling for solutions. There was a recent shake-up in which Megyn Kelly replaced Sean Hannity in the prime time slot. 

But if they thought the Megyn Kelly would be the way to attract a younger audience, then the problem of who needs to be replaced goes much deeper than just anchors. 
All that programming sleight of hand did was make the old men salivate from the heady combination of sensational looks, perkiness, and mean-girl aggression.
As the blogger noted: young people are not going to tune in given that they are just going to be fed the same stream of lies, distortions, and evasions no matter who the talking head might be. 
So, the real question is: 
What happens when there aren’t enough young people tuning in to replace the elderly audience?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Ebola's Other Victims: The Orphans the Epidemic Left Behind

by Nomad

As the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West and Central Africa, one of the indirect effect has been the children orphaned by the humanitarian crisis.

What does the future hold for these children? The answer lies in how much help they receive now.

Meet 8-year-old Lamin Borbor, one of the hundreds of orphaned children in Ebola-ravaged Sierra Leone. After losing both parents to Ebola, Lamin's new home is the Interim Care Centre (ICC) in Kailahun town, in the east of the country.  
In a recent news article, Lamin told a reporter for IRIN:
"I was brought here because I had nobody to take care of me. My parents died of the Ebola virus. but I have no fear [because] the people are taking good care of me at the centre."
Meanwhile Sierra Leone's Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children's Affairs (MSWGCA) and international agencies struggle to find solutions for the orphans of Ebola. Although the Kailahun ICC is being managed by the government. the funding comes from organizations such as Save the Children and UNICEF

At this time it is the only center in Kailahun but a second facility for Ebola orphans has been opened last month in Port Loko, in the north of the country. Most doctors consider this to be ground zero for the epidemic in West Africa. At the moment, at least.

So how many children like Lamin are there? The exact numbers of Ebola orphans from all of the stricken countries is hard to place. (That's also true of the actual number of Ebola victims.) Three days ago, one UK charity, Street Child, released a report that estimates that in Sierra Leone alone it has left 7,000 children without parents. They also admit that that's probably a very conservative estimate.

A revised survey paints a far grimmer picture. Accounting for the current death toll, under-reporting of cases within the population, and data reports from local teams, the organization estimates there are at least 20,000 children in the region who have been effectively orphaned by Ebola – left with no-one to care for them. 
It is simply impossible to know. Many children living in rural areas may be unaccounted for, while many others end up on the street or are living with neighbors temporarily. Some parentless families are being raised by older siblings.

In contrast to the aid organizations' estimate, the IRIN news report:
Nationwide, more than 3,400 children have been directly affected by the virus, including at least 89 children who have lost one parent and more than 795 who have lost both parents to Ebola, according to the MSWGCA/UNICEF-led Family Tracing and Reunification (FTR) network. There are no accurate figures for the number of separated children, a spokesperson for FTR said.
Whatever the true figures, it is clear that the Ebola orphan crisis will become a long term social problem for a nation that already has more than its share of problems.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Here's Why Rudy Giuliani Would Rather Talk about Black-on-Black Crime than Ferguson

by Nomad

Remarks on the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri by Rudy Giuliani have caused a bit of a stir in the media. Some have charged him with showing his racist side. For those who know Giuliani's record as mayor of New York, nothing he has said is much of a surprise.

Rudy's Rude Remarks

As the former mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani  earned a reputation as a hard-as-nails tough guy who cleaned up the city of crime. It's an image he likes to promote and it plays well with his conservative base. So when he was asked to comment on the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, his remarks were bound to be blunt and to hit a nerve with some people. If that was his intention, then he certainly succeeded. 

On a TV news show, he told a black reporter that white police officers wouldn't be in black communities if "you weren't killing each other" and that "there is virtually no homicide in the white community." The word "you" is presumably short for "you black people."
The fact is that I find it very disappointing that you're not discussing the fact that 93 percent of blacks in America are killed by other blacks.
The Atlantic Monthly thoroughly decimated Giuliani's contention that police officers are the saviors of the black community. Journalist Ta-nehısı Coates wrote with a full helping of sarcasm:
It's almost as if killers tend to murder people who live near them. Moreover, it seems that people actually hold officers operating under the color of law to a different standard. This is an incredible set of insights, which taken together offer a revelation so profound, so far-reaching, that it must not be wasted on our shiftless minority populations.  
Unable to stop himself, Giuliani made other thoughtless statements. Following the decision not indict the police officer Darren Wilson, Giuliani said that he'd prosecute witnesses whose stories contradict Wilson's account. As if the police officer's account of the event - the defendant, in this case- was a standard by which all other eye-witness accounts should be judged. 
To be sure these were offensive remarks and they came at the wrong time. Yet, as any New Yorker will tell you, statements like this are pure Giuliani. 

Actually, as they would also tell you, the remarks hide an ugly truth about Giuliani.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Investor Revolt at News Corp: Will the Murdoch Dynasty be Dethroned?

by Nomad

After NewsCorp investors staged a revolt at the annual shareholders meeting last week, CEO and founder Rupert Murdoch barely managed to retain control over his company.
The source of the dissatisfaction revolves around the structure of the company, and the Murdoch family's ability to lead the company.

If reports are accurate, things apparently got hot and heavy at a recent News Corp shareholders meeting last week. According to an article in  The Sidney Morning Herald, Rupert Murdoch just barely survived a  revolt at the annual meeting of investors. At issue, was the Murdoch family control of the company, which sparked widespread displeasure among a large number of stockholders.

The company structure allows the Murdoch family to control around 40 per cent of the company's vote while actually owning 14 per cent of News Corp. In this way, they have been able to keep an iron grip on the company. That has,  as the article notes, lead "to accusations it is run more like a family fiefdom than a conventional public company." 

Furthermore, some investors charge that such a structure provides Murdoch family with significant control of News Corp while passing the risks onto the other investors. 
One investors at the meeting called it "“fundamentally undemocratic."
"This kind of governing structure may be exactly what we'd expect in Cuba or North Korea, but it is at odds with good governance practices here," Bill Dempsey, chief financial officer of the New York-based Nathan Cummings Foundation, told Mr Murdoch at Friday's meeting
Shareholders proposed that the company's controversial dual-class voting structure be reformed. They proposed scrapping the present structure and replacing it with a one share, one vote system. Although the motion was narrowly defeated, it was a sign that all is not well behind the ramparts of the News Corp fortress.

Notably, even one of the companies key investor, the Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, (worth an estimated $27 billion) also voted in favor of restructuring the company. It marked the first time in 17 years that Al-Waleed, News Corp's second largest single investor, has voted in opposition of Murdoch. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Other Side of Anger: The East St. Louis Race Riots of 1917

by Nomad

A century, in the summer of 1917, East St. Louis was rocked by a race riot that has today been largely forgotten. It was, in many ways, a classic example of how things between the majority and the minority can quickly get out of control.

Exodus from the South

It is the summer of 1917 and the place is East St. Louis.
For the black laborer, the conditions in the Deep South, with its Jim Crow laws and the prevailing atmosphere of oppression, offered very little enticement to stay. Despite federal laws which were supposed to provide equal protection and due process, the African American in the South at that time was considered a second-class citizen.

As one source points out, all Southern states had some form of Jim Crow laws. Segregation was a way of life for black in the South, affecting every social activity, not merely schools, but also in restaurants, theaters, parks, and hospitals. All these restrictions were held in place by a justice system that favored the white race in every way. And when injustice was challenged, the KKK was on hand to provide the intimidation to keep the "coloreds" in line.

It was a time of great demographic changes. Around 1910, African Americans had constituted more than half the population of South Carolina and Mississippi, and more than 40 percent in Georgia, Alabama, Texas, and Louisiana. The Black exodus had rendered the South essentially without a labor force. In the North, cities that once been virtually all white at the turn of the century now became centers of urban black culture.

Factories in the North offered great opportunities for men willing to work, especially in 1917 with America about to enter the World War. Between the years 1916 through 1918, an estimated 400,000 African Americans left the South in to take advantage of a labor shortage in the wake of the First World War.

During that spring, African Americans from the South were moving to St. Louis at the rate of 2,000 a week. And this influx presented the Northern manufacturers an ultra-cheap source of labor. That was to prove to be an excellent bargaining chip against unhappy union workers.

Unions vs Management

At the same time, workers unions were embroiled in labor disputes not only in the US but globally. Among the demands, workers were attempting to establish a fair wage, the right to collective bargaining, an eight-hour work day, increased worker safety and job security. Across the nation, unions were attempting to assert their dominance over industry.

With wartime demands for industrial production increased, the timing for workers couldn't have been any better. If industrialists were going to get rich, then workers believed that they had every right to demand their own share. Added to that, union leaders understood that conscription for military service was bound to create a shortage of civilian manpower. The time to seize the moment was now.

For the corporation owner, therefore, the black migration -cheap labor that would accept whatever conditions and at whatever wages that company owners offered- was one sure way that they could break the power of the largely white unions. since the Industrial revolution began the one tactic that has long become fool-proof is to pit worker against worker. In the 1917 case, the plan was to pit white union labor and black easily-exploitable labor.

When 470 African American workers were hired to replace striking white workers at the Aluminum Ore Company in East St. Louis, the stage was set for a war between the races. The strike. which included, at least, half of the company's workforce, had already gone on for several weeks.

It was one of a series of labor actions in the area that had weakened the power of the unions. These companies were now in the power position and felt no need to arbitrate.

The hatred for corrupt management and greedy company owners swiftly turned into racial hatred for the black "scabs."

That discord was, historians have noted, largely stirred up by management that was in no mood to negotiate. Government orders meant profits and these dangerous combined factors would soon erupt into all-out calamity.

The book, Power, Community, and Racial Killing in East St. Louis, author Malcolm McLaughlin. points to the tactics (along with collaboration with local government) as the chief factor for the racial violence to come. The war allowed the industrialists to identify their own interests with the interests of the nation at war. Striking workers were portrayed as un-American. Any tactic to break the strike was considered fair.

The company had also, McLaughlin also notes, employed professional strikebreakers, armies of thugs and armed them with secretly-obtained US government issued rifles. The company had apparently received the rifles from a local gun club set up by Estes Sorrell, the secretary of the Chamber of Commerce. McLaughlin speculates that the club was specifically intended as a means of gun running since the rifles appeared at the Aluminum Ore plant, packed and ungreased.

Rumblings Before the Eruption

Tensions were reaching a breaking point. On May 10, union leaders warned local government that something had to be done about the black workers taking white jobs. They threatened to take action themselves if nothing was done.

Eventually, on May 28th, 1917- just weeks after America had entered the war, the spark caught fire and the race riots of East St. Louis exploded. Formal complaints about black workers were lodged with the Mayor of East St. Louis Fred Mollman by furious whites. 

A month earlier Mayor Mollman had won re-election on a promise to clean up the city. He had also assured black voters that black police officers would be hired and a new firehouse would be built for black neighborhoods. White voters were also furious when Mollman threw a post-election party with hundreds of black supporters. 

The mayor assured the angry white crowd that he had a plan to handle the Negro problem. However the remarks of another speaker, a white lawyer, that struck an ominous note. He told the crowd that "there's is no law against mob violence." 
It was exactly the wrong thing to say and the worst message to give.

Immediately after the meetings, with passions running high, a rumor was circulated about a white man being robbed by an armed African-American. Mobs of angry white civilians gather and set off a rampage through the downtown, assaulting all blacks they could find. African Americans were pulled off trolleys and beaten on the street.

Critics claimed that the police were more interested in disarming the black residents instead of protecting lives and property.
This violent episode was brought to an end only when Illinois governor Frank Lowden called out the National Guard to restore calm.

Had the governor followed up with a thorough investigation and prosecution of transgressors along with preventative measures, the situation could have been resolved. 
However, in the month that followed, the riot was all but forgotten while the simpering underlying causes remained. As one source notes:
No precautions were taken to ensure white job security or to grant union recognition. This further increased the already-high level of hostilities towards African Americans. No reforms were made in police force which did little to quell the violence in May.
When Governor Lowden ordered the National Guard out of the city on June 10th, the black residents of the city faced the situation alone. 
During this time, the strike was officially called off two weeks later, all that was left of the labor action was a bitter resentment that demanded its expression in violence.

The Slaughter of the Innocents

On July 2, 1917, an automobile driven by white males passing through a black neighborhood, firing shots at African Americans. 
Not long afterward, black residents mistook another car carrying a journalist and two police officers for the same attackers and fired shot at the passing vehicle, killing both police.

Later that day, thousands of white residents gathered on the scene to view the blood-stained auto. The crowds then turned and marched into the black parts of town, reportedly beating any African American they found along the way - including women and children.

Professor Elliot Rudwick's 1964 book Race Riot at East St. Louis, July 2, 1917, provides an insight to the terrible night. After cutting fire department water hoses, white rioters torched entire black neighborhoods of the city and shot at residents as they attempted to escape. 

Several innocent African Americans were lynched by the mobs.
Guardsmen were called in but accounts exist that they joined in the rioting rather than stopping it. More joined in, including allegedly "ten or fifteen young girls about 18 years old, [who] chased a negro woman at the Relay Depot at about 5 o'clock. The girls were brandishing clubs and calling upon the men to kill the woman."
Some unverified reports claimed that "black women were stripped by white women for the amusement of the crowd." 

Troops were ordered not to shoot rioters and a number of rifles were stolen from the soldiers. When squads of soldiers were sent out to round up firearms, it was clear that both sides were well-armed. 

One Col. S. O. Tripp of the Illinois Guard came out as a hero of the hour when he rescued an elderly black man from a lynching party of hundreds. The black man, with a rope around his neck, was being dragged through a street by more than a hundred men. Col. Tripp forced his way through the crowd and demanded the crowd release the man. 
Such acts of heroism were not common and later, as the details emerged, the actions of National Guard on that night would seem anything but heroic. 

According to one account at the time, African Americans were "being shot down like rabbits" and hanged to telegraph poles in the south end of the town. Other reliable reports counted nineteen black corpses on a side street. 

Throughout the night of July 2, the atrocities against black Americans continued despite the presence of patrolling Guardsmen. In addition, high winds spread the flames engulfing three different parts of the city. 

In the early hours of the following morning, leaders of the black community gathered together to make an appeal directly to President Wilson and to the Illinois governor. They demanded increased security for the black population under mortal threat. The total number of Guardsmen was 1.500, but officials conceded that that number would not be enough to restore order. 
Here's how one reporter described the scene the following morning.
Estimates of the number of dead varied widely from 25 to 250. At 9:30 o'clock 24 bodies had been recovered, including three whites, 74 wounded negros were found.

Estimate of the bodies supposed to lie under the acres of ashes and smouldering debris, where fires consumed hundreds of negro shacks and house last night run into the hundreds.

Keeping Out of Sight 

The morning brought some degree of calm to the city. Exhausted Guardsmen patrolled the streets while many black residents driven from their homes huddled together "seemingly anxious to keep out of sight." 

Six thousand blacks were left homeless and five hundred men women and children had been forced to spend the night in the city jail. presumably, the only place that would provide any degree of security.

Otherwise. said the reporter,  the city appeared normal. There were broken windows here and there, other wreckage and the breeze carried the acrid smell of water-soaked embers.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) dispatched two representatives, W.E.B. DuBois, and Martha Gruening, to investigate the events. Silent marches of 10,000 were held in New York City in silent protests for what black leaders were calling a "massacre."

In the days after the event, there was a national outcry for those responsible to held to account. including the police commission and other government officials. Closer to home, however, it was a different story. 
In the days following the riots, the city's whites exhibited little regret. Many toured downtown, which buzzed with a mardi-gras environment, showing off mementos that they had gathered during the unrest (mainly pieces of clothing from dead bodies). They also blamed their black neighbors for the July 2 disturbance.
Collins also points out that when justice finally came, it was the based on a surreal version of impartiality.
A grand jury eventually handed down indictments to 134 people, about one-third of them black. Most of the whites paid a small fine or spent a few days in jail. Six substantial trials stemmed from the riot- four involving whites and two blacks. Nine whites and twelve blacks served time in prison.

The Garvey Indictment

The controversial and charismatic Marcus Garvey, the president of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) delivered a speech on July 8, less than a week later. 
His words were unambiguous calling what had taken place as "one of the bloodiest outrages against mankind for which any class of people could be held guilty."

It was, he said,  "no time for fine words, but a time to lift one's voice against the savagery of a people who claim to be the dispensers of democracy."
“This is a crime against the laws of humanity; it is a crime against the laws of the nation, it is a crime against Nature, and a crime against the God of all mankind.”
He did not blame just the individuals involved, but Garvey indicted the entire system:
For three hundred years the Negroes of America have given their life blood to make the Republic the first among the nations of the world, and all along this time there has never been even one year of justice but on the contrary a continuous round of oppression.
Quoting   Acts 17:26, Garvey said that  God has created "of one blood all nations of men to dwell on the face of the earth." Yet, it was the white race that was determined "to enslave, conquer and rob the rights of the Peaceful."
Through that system of enslavement, conquest and robbery, the black man was taken into this country where he was forced against his will to labor for the enrichment of the white man. Millions of our people in the early days of slavery gave their lives that America might live. From the labours of these people the country grew in power, until her wealth to-day is computed above that of any two nations.
In spite of this inarguable contribution to the American success story, the Negro race was still "a despised creature in the eye of the white people." How else can the massacre in East St.Louis be explained?

"The white man," Garvey told the crowd, "has never found it convenient to live up to the principles of brotherhood which he himself teaches to all mankind." 

In that speech, Garvey also outlined a conspiracy against African Americans who had abandoned the brutal oppression of the South in a bid for their fair share of prosperity and a better life in the North. He took direct aim at East St. Louis Mayor Mollman. 
"I am convinced that he fostered a well arranged conspiracy to prevent black men migrating from the South much the loss of Southern Farmers who for months have been moving heaven it seems to prevent the exodus of the labor serfs of the South into the North."
He accused Mollman of doing "absolutely nothing to let the people know that the law would be enforced to preserve order and ensure the peaceful lives of the black people."
The authorities instead of attempting to keep law and order had simply stood by and watched.
We have a police department that is incompetent and inefficient if not worse. Not only was the word sent out that law would not be rigidly enforced but the impression was allowed to spread that law violations would be winked at."
There were reports, Garvey said, that the East St. Louis mayor had been contacted by representatives from the South to see what could be done about the black migration.
As proof of the conspiracy, Garvey also cited a message from Legislature of Georgia that "their good Negroes must come home as they will treat them better than East St. Louis did." 

In one day, Garvey said, the mayor of East St. Louis succeeded in driving out a black population in fear of their lives in the face of a white mob. he promised that he would do all he could to discourage Negroes from Louisiana going into East St. Louis as the city did not want them. 
The South was, he said, wild about the "splendid performance."

 *   *   *
Within a month, insurance companies in East St. Louis were canceling policies on property owned by African Americans, in advance of the National Guards eventual departure. 
According to an article in the St. Louis Argus for July 20th, landlords were rumored to be demanding tenants leave and that certain time payment furniture houses were offering to take back partially paid for furniture and refund amount advanced. The same article noted that Illinois Senator Lawrence Sherman was warning the Senate that the rioting was likely to erupt again unless a Congressional committee was formed to investigate the incident.

The message to black residents was clear: they were not safe and they were not wanted. Go back to where you came from.

Committee Hearings

By August of 1917, the United States House of Representatives formed a special Committee investigation of the East St. Louis Race Riots. It came at the request of President Wilson. He wrote a letter to Congress declaring it was "a very serious thing for the whole Nation that anything of the sort that happened in East St. Louis should be possible." 

The committee was charged with reporting the causes that led to the murdering, the lynching, the burning, and the drowning of innocent citizens. The testimony of witnesses presented the Congressmen with horrors that could not be ignored. One witness gave his own account of victims begging for mercy at the hands of a mob gone utterly insane. as well as death by stoning and African Americans randomly being burned alive.
Black skin, a witness told the Congressmen, was a death warrant. 

Another witness stated that the white mob could be a "frugal" lot as well. After shattering the windows of a black residents, white mobs would then loot homes and would remove "every useful piece of furniture, especially if they were large pieces, and carried them to the homes of the poorer whites."

(The complete report was held under seal by the U.S. Government as "classified information" and the U.S. Government did not declassify this report until 1986.) 

The definitive findings of the committee revealed gross negligence of the National Guard and the St. Louis police force. They had not, the report said, acted adequately during the riots, revealing that the police often fled from the scenes of murder and arson. Others had deserted the station houses and refused to answer calls for help. 

In short, law and order were essentially non-existent when it came to protecting the black population on that fateful night. The result as one witness observed was a spectacle worthy of the barbarity of the Roman Coliseum, except, in this case, the white mob had "become were their own gladiators and their own wild beasts."

The Echoes of the Race Riots

In 1918, Representative Leonidas C. Dyer, a Republican from Saint Louis, Missouri introduced the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill. Dyer had been on the Committee and had been appalled at the race riots. Th bill was an attempt to punish lynchings and mob violence. The legislation would have made lynching a federal felony, thereby overcoming any question of state jurisdiction. 

The draft bill not only demanded punishment for perpetrators but also  prescribed a maximum of 5 years in prison for "any state or city official who had the power to protect a person in his jurisdiction but failed to do so or who had the power to prosecute those responsible and failed to do so."
There was more. 

A $10,000 fine was to be paid by the county in which the lynching took place, to be turned over to the victim’s family. If the victim was seized in one county and killed in another, both counties were to be fined.
 States, especially in the South at that time seldom prosecuted lynchings and they claimed that the prosecution of mob violence including lynchings was a matter of states to decide. 
Congressional Record also showed that senators defended lynching on the grounds that it helped control what they characterized as a threat to white women and also served to keep the races separate.

The bill was passed by a large majority in the House of Representatives, however, the legislation was blocked by a filibuster each time it was put up for a vote.  The opposition was led by the South.

Ninety percent of all lynchings occurred in the Southern states Mississippi, Georgia, Texas, Louisiana, and Alabama furnished nearly half the total victims. Before the civil rights era- which radically changed the direction and agenda of the Democratic party, the South was firmly in the hands of the white ultra-conservative Democrats. 

This faction effectively prevented the passage of the anti-lynching each time the matter came up. 1922, in 1923 and once more in 1924. Each time, Southern Senators replied that they could their own affairs pretty well without Federal interference.


In June of 2005, the US Senate formally apologized for its failure to enact anti-lynching bills. Between the years 1882- 1968, nearly 200 anti-lynching laws were drafted. Of those, only three passed the House vote. All of them died in the Senate, a result of the Southern Democratic opposition. 

(That political trend continued until the Democrats under President Eisenhower who challenged the segregation policies of the South. The civil rights policies of Democrat Presidents Kennedy and Johnson ended the Southern conservative wing of their party and today, thanks to the Southern Strategy of Nixon and Reagan, the South is firmly in the hands of the Republican party.) 

Even in 2005, the vote to apologize for the failure was not unanimous. Two Senators from Mississippi, Republicans Trent Lott and Thad Cochran.refused to sign.

Before the Endless Loop

Marcus Garvey once said that the function of the Press was public service "without prejudice or partiality, to convey the truth as it is seen and understood without favoritism or bias."

Today, we have the 24/7 news cycle which may show a glimpse of the truth (when it wishes) but it is rarely the whole truth. Today we have cameras in helicopters soaring over crowds of angry protesters. Close ups of furious African American faces, shouting and holding up handwritten signs. Today CNN reports can show live shots of buildings aflame and National Guard troops in full uniform firing tear gas canisters into silhouetted crowds. We see an endless loop of shots of black residents breaking into shops and carrying out whatever they get a hold of.

Back in 1917, none of this technology existed, of course, and the news coverage of the events in East St. Louis was limited to a small item at the bottom of a page. In the East St. Louis incident, there were practically no photographs of the atrocities and the few that were taken were not flashed every hour to a disgusted public. 

All and all, that's a lucky thing for the white race. Without a mirror, it's so easy to forget what one looks like.