Monday, April 14, 2014

White Terrorist Attacks Jewish Centers in Kansas

Today, a white supremacist allegedly committed despicable and cowardly attacks of terrorism against the Jewish community in Kansas. The Washington Post reports that:
The 73-year-old man accused of going on a deadly shooting spree Sunday at Jewish facilities in Kansas has been identified as a former ‘grand dragon’ of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. The shootings took the lives of three people before he was arrested.

Two of those shot were at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City. The other was at the Village Shalom Retirement Center. Both are located in Overland Park, Kan., south of Kansas City.

The shootings occurred about 1 p.m. central time a day before Passover, the eight-day holiday in which Jews celebrate their freedom from slavery in Egypt.

The Kansas City Star said that the gunman fired at five people Sunday afternoon, but he missed two of his targets, who were not injured. Police said the man had not only a shotgun but also a handgun and possibly an assault weapon.

According to the Star:

Matt Davis, who lives near Valley Park Elementary where police arrested Miller, was shopping with his son for a suit for his upcoming bar mitzvah when he heard about the shooting. Davis was outside the school when Miller was hauled off.

The man was smiling.

‘I was wondering, Why is the guy smiling when he’s being arrested,’ said Davis, whose daughter was inside the Jewish Community Center when the shooting occurred in the parking lot. She and the hundreds of other people inside the center were not injured.

Rabbi Herbert Mandl, chaplain for the Overland Park Police Department, told CNN that the shooter was shouting neo-Nazi slogans as he was taken away. Mandl also said he was asking people whether they were Jewish before he fired. And KCTV reported he was yelling “Heil Hitler” during the arrest.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a respected activist organization that tracks hate crimes and racist activities, said the man arrested and identified by police as Frazier Glenn Cross is actually Frazier Glenn Miller. Miller, the SPLC said, founded and ran the Carolina Klan before he was sued by the SPLC “for operating an illegal paramilitary organization and using intimidation tactics against African Americans.”
Read more here.

I send my condolences to the victims' families. May God bless them and keep them. May justice prevail over hatred.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Obama Calls Out the GOP for Voter Suppression

Good morning, family. Yesterday, President Obama spoke at the National Action Network National Convention. The President called a spade a spade. He called the Republicans out for suppressing the black vote. The Grio reports that:
In an unsparing critique of Republicans, President Barack Obama on Friday said the GOP is threatening voting rights in America more than at any point since the passage of the historic 1965 law expanding rights at the ballot box to millions of black Americans.

“The stark simple truth is this: The right to vote is threatened today,” Obama said in a fiery speech at civil rights activist and television talk host Al Sharpton’s National Action Network conference.

The election-year warning comes as Obama seeks to mobilize Democratic voters to fight back against state voting requirements and early balloting restrictions that many in his party fear will curb turnout in November. The president vowed that he would not let the attacks on voting rights go unchallenged, but offered no new announcements of specific actions his administration planned to take.

The president pinned efforts to curb access to the ballot box directly on the GOP, declaring that the effort “has not been led by both parties. It’s been led by the Republican Party.”
The President spoke the truth. Republicans supported striking down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act ("VRA"). As Think Progress reports, "the Republican attorneys general of Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina, South Dakota and Texas filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court arguing that a key provision of the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional." In Shelby County v. Holder, it was Republican appointed Supreme Court Justices who decided to strike down Section 4 of the VRA. Moreover, all around the country, the GOP is deliberately attempting to suppress black voters and other voters who tend to vote for Democrats.

The New York Times reports that:
Republicans in Ohio and Wisconsin this winter pushed through measures limiting the time polls are open, in particular cutting into weekend voting favored by low-income voters and blacks, who sometimes caravan from churches to polls on the Sunday before election.

Democrats in North Carolina are scrambling to fight back against the nation’s most restrictive voting laws, passed by Republicans there last year. The measures, taken together, sharply reduce the number of early voting days and establish rules that make it more difficult for people to register to vote, cast provisional ballots or, in a few cases, vote absentee.

In all, nine states have passed measures making it harder to vote since the beginning of 2013. Most have to do with voter ID laws. Other states are considering mandating proof of citizenship, like a birth certificate or a passport, after a federal court judge recently upheld such laws passed in Arizona and Kansas. Because many poor people do not have either and because documents can take time and money to obtain, Democrats say the ruling makes it far more difficult for people to register.
In sum, the President's assessment of the GOP is accurate.

The question is what are we prepared to do combat the GOP's voter suppression efforts. In addition to gathering evidence and filing lawsuits, we must combat voter suppression through intensive voter information and registration campaigns. We must ensure that all African American voters are aware of all new voter laws in their state. We must register record numbers of African American voters and inspire them to actually vote. While we inform the public and register new voters, we must continue to boldly define and vigorously push a black agenda. We must support or oppose politicians based solely on their demonstrated commitment to our agenda.  We cannot afford to vote for candidates based solely based on party affiliation. Our agenda must be primary, first and foremost.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Obama, Bush, Clinton and Carter Speak at the LBJ Civil Rights Summit

Good morning, family. TGIF. This week, President Barack Obama, former President George W. Bush, former President Bill Clinton and former President Jimmy Carter spoke at that Lyndon B. Johnson Library Civil Rights Summit. What did you think about their speeches and comments? What should be the top priority for today's black civil rights leaders?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

I Stand With Rev. Al Sharpton

The Smoking Gun reports that:
A lengthy investigation by The Smoking Gun has uncovered remarkable details about Sharpton’s past work as an informant for a joint organized crime task force comprised of FBI agents and NYPD detectives, as well as his dealings with an assortment of wiseguys.

Beginning in the mid-1980s and spanning several years, Sharpton’s cooperation was fraught with danger since the FBI’s principal targets were leaders of the Genovese crime family, the country’s largest and most feared Mafia outfit. In addition to aiding the FBI/NYPD task force, which was known as the “Genovese squad,” Sharpton’s cooperation extended to several other investigative agencies.

TSG’s account of Sharpton’s secret life as “CI-7” is based on hundreds of pages of confidential FBI affidavits, documents released by the bureau in response to Freedom of Information Act requests, court records, and extensive interviews with six members of the Genovese squad, as well as other law enforcement officials to whom the activist provided assistance.

Like almost every other FBI informant, Sharpton was solely an information source. The parameters of his cooperation did not include Sharpton ever surfacing publicly or testifying on a witness stand.

Genovese squad investigators--representing both the FBI and NYPD--recalled how Sharpton, now 59, deftly extracted information from wiseguys. In fact, one Gambino crime family figure became so comfortable with the protest leader that he spoke openly--during ten wired face-to-face meetings--about a wide range of mob business, from shylocking and extortions to death threats and the sanity of Vincent “Chin” Gigante, the Genovese boss who long feigned mental illness in a bid to deflect law enforcement scrutiny. As the mafioso expounded on these topics, Sharpton’s briefcase--a specially customized Hartmann model--recorded his every word.
The article further states that:
In an interview Saturday, Sharpton again denied working as a confidential informant, claiming that his prior cooperation with FBI agents was limited to efforts to prompt investigations of drug dealing in minority communities, as well as the swindling of black artists in the recording industry. He also repeatedly denied being “flipped” by federal agents in the course of an undercover operation. When asked specifically about his recording of the Gambino crime family member, Sharpton was noncommittal: “I’m not saying yes, I’m not saying no.”

If Sharpton’s account is to be believed, he was simply a concerned citizen who voluntarily (and briefly) joined arm-in-arm with federal agents, perhaps risking peril in the process. The other explanation for Sharpton’s cooperation--one that has uniformly been offered by knowledgeable law enforcement agents--presents the reverend in a less noble light. Worried that he could face criminal charges, Sharpton opted for the path of self-preservation and did what the FBI asked. Which is usually how someone is compelled to repeatedly record a gangster discussing murder, extortion, and loan sharking.
More specifically, the article alleges that:
In the course of an investigation being run by Spinelli and his partner John Pritchard, Sharpton was secretly recorded in meetings with an FBI undercover agent posing as a wealthy drug dealer seeking to promote boxing matches.

During one meeting with Sharpton, the undercover agent offered to get him "pure coke" at $35,000 a kilo. As the phony drug kingpin spoke, Sharpton nodded his head and said, “I hear you.” When the undercover promised Sharpton a 10 percent finder’s fee if he could arrange the purchase of several kilos, the reverend referred to an unnamed buyer and said, “If he’s gonna do it, he’ll do it much more than that.” The FBI agent steered the conversation toward the possible procurement of cocaine, sources said, since investigators believed that Sharpton acquaintance Daniel Pagano--who was not present--was looking to consummate drug deals. Joseph Pagano, an East Harlem native who rose through a Genovese crew notorious for narcotics trafficking, spent nearly seven years in federal prison for heroin distribution.

While Sharpton did not explicitly offer to arrange a drug deal, some investigators thought his interaction with the undercover agent could be construed as a violation of federal conspiracy laws. Though an actual prosecution, an ex-FBI agent acknowledged, would have been “a reach,” agents decided to approach Sharpton and attempt to “flip” the activist, who was then shy of his 30th birthday. In light of Sharpton’s relationship with Don King, FBI agents wanted his help in connection with the bureau’s three-year-old boxing investigation, code named “Crown Royal” and headed by Spinelli and Pritchard.

In subsequent denials that he had been “flipped,” Sharpton has contended that he stiffened in the face of the FBI agents, meeting their bluff with bluster and bravado. He claimed to have turned away Spinelli & Co., daring them to “Indict me” and “Prosecute.” Sharpton has complained that the seasoned investigators were “trying to sting me, entrap me…a young minister.”

In fact, Sharpton fell for the FBI ruse and agreed to cooperate, a far-reaching decision he made without input from a lawyer, according to sources. “I think there was some fear [of prosecution] on his part,” recalled a former federal agent. In a TSG interview, Sharpton claimed that he rebuffed the FBI agents, who, he added, threatened to serve him with a subpoena to testify before a federal grand jury investigating King. After being confronted by the bureau, Sharpton said he consulted with an attorney (whom he declined to identify).
The United States government and reactionary forces have a long history of attacking black leaders and organizations. In fact, under the Cointelpro, the U.S. government sought "to expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize" black organizations, their leaders, spokesmen and members. Our enemies discredited and neutralized leaders like Marcus Garvey, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture), Huey P. Newton, Fred Hampton and many others.

The Smoking Gun article is an obvious example of such an effort. Clearly, the goal of that article is to discredit Al Sharpton and President Barack Obama. Even worst, the Smoking Gun may incite, whether intentionally or unintentionally, the mafia to kill Rev. Sharpton. Furthermore, shortly after Rev. Sharpton's National Action Network announced that President Obama will be the keynote speaker at their national convention, the Smoking Gun published that article.  That timing is not a coincidence.

The Smoking Gun's attempt to discredit Rev. Sharpton fails for the following reasons. First of all, the events described in the article happened over thirty years ago. Second, the mafia is a scourge that should be eradicated. They flood our communities with drugs and guns. They are responsible for murder, extortion, prostitution, gambling and other despicable crimes. Al Sharpton should be commended for helping law enforcement arrest and imprison those thugs.  Finally, in light of the F.B.I.'s abysmal track record in the black community, they have less creditability than Rev. Sharpton. Their account of how Sharpton became an informant is questionable. Since Rev. Sharpton has a history of challenging racist police officers, it is not unlikely that former F.B.I. agents would distort the facts in order to discredit Rev. Sharpton.  

We cannot allow the opposition to deceive us. Rev. Al Sharpton is a soldier in the struggle for civil rights. He stands up against police brutality, racial profiling, injustice and other forms of racism.   He demonstrated in support of affirmative action.  He was there for Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, the Jena Six, Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis and countless others. He has devoted his life to social justice. For those reasons, I stand with Rev. Al Sharpton.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Seymour Hersh: Obama's Rationale for War with Syria Was Wrong

Yesterday, on Democracy Now, Amy Goodman interviewed award winning journalist Seymour Hersh. On the program, Mr. Hersh explained how the Obama Administration's rationale for waging war against Syria was false. The Administration claimed that Syria crossed a red line by using chemical weapons against its own people. However, there is a strong possibility that the rebels, aided by Turkey, used chemical weapons in order to force the U.S. to attack the Assad regime.

Similar to the Iraq war, thousands of people could have been killed based on a lie. Sadly, many hypocritical, brainwashed "progressives" blindly danced to the beat of the war drums. Instead of challenging the Administration, they became its mouthpieces. Thank goodness, the war hawks did not have their way.

In Seymour Hersh's London Review of Books article entitled The Red Line and the Rat Line, he reports that:
The joint chiefs also knew that the Obama administration’s public claims that only the Syrian army had access to sarin were wrong. The American and British intelligence communities had been aware since the spring of 2013 that some rebel units in Syria were developing chemical weapons. On 20 June analysts for the US Defense Intelligence Agency issued a highly classified five-page ‘talking points’ briefing for the DIA’s deputy director, David Shedd, which stated that al-Nusra maintained a sarin production cell: its programme, the paper said, was ‘the most advanced sarin plot since al-Qaida’s pre-9/11 effort’. (According to a Defense Department consultant, US intelligence has long known that al-Qaida experimented with chemical weapons, and has a video of one of its gas experiments with dogs.) The DIA paper went on: ‘Previous IC [intelligence community] focus had been almost entirely on Syrian CW [chemical weapons] stockpiles; now we see ANF attempting to make its own CW … Al-Nusrah Front’s relative freedom of operation within Syria leads us to assess the group’s CW aspirations will be difficult to disrupt in the future.’ The paper drew on classified intelligence from numerous agencies: ‘Turkey and Saudi-based chemical facilitators,’ it said, ‘were attempting to obtain sarin precursors in bulk, tens of kilograms, likely for the anticipated large scale production effort in Syria.’ (Asked about the DIA paper, a spokesperson for the director of national intelligence said: ‘No such paper was ever requested or produced by intelligence community analysts.’)

Last May, more than ten members of the al-Nusra Front were arrested in southern Turkey with what local police told the press were two kilograms of sarin. In a 130-page indictment the group was accused of attempting to purchase fuses, piping for the construction of mortars, and chemical precursors for sarin. Five of those arrested were freed after a brief detention. The others, including the ringleader, Haytham Qassab, for whom the prosecutor requested a prison sentence of 25 years, were released pending trial. In the meantime the Turkish press has been rife with speculation that the Erdo─čan administration has been covering up the extent of its involvement with the rebels. In a news conference last summer, Aydin Sezgin, Turkey’s ambassador to Moscow, dismissed the arrests and claimed to reporters that the recovered ‘sarin’ was merely ‘anti-freeze’.

The DIA paper took the arrests as evidence that al-Nusra was expanding its access to chemical weapons. It said Qassab had ‘self-identified’ as a member of al-Nusra, and that he was directly connected to Abd-al-Ghani, the ‘ANF emir for military manufacturing’. Qassab and his associate Khalid Ousta worked with Halit Unalkaya, an employee of a Turkish firm called Zirve Export, who provided ‘price quotes for bulk quantities of sarin precursors’. Abd-al-Ghani’s plan was for two associates to ‘perfect a process for making sarin, then go to Syria to train others to begin large scale production at an unidentified lab in Syria’. The DIA paper said that one of his operatives had purchased a precursor on the ‘Baghdad chemical market’, which ‘has supported at least seven CW efforts since 2004’.

Read more here.

It is a shame that the major U.S. media is not reporting on this story.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

McCutcheon v. FEC and the Facade of Democracy

The New York Times reports that:
The Supreme Court on Wednesday continued its abolition of limits on election spending, striking down a decades-old cap on the total amount any individual can contribute to federal candidates in a two-year election cycle.

The ruling, issued near the start of a campaign season, will very likely increase the role money plays in American politics.

The 5-to-4 decision, with the court’s more conservative members in the majority, echoed Citizens United, the 2010 decision that struck down limits on independent campaign spending by corporations and unions.

Wednesday’s decision seemed to alter campaign finance law in subtle but important ways, notably by limiting how the government can justify laws said to restrict the exercise of First Amendment rights in the form of campaign contributions.

The court’s 88-page decision reflected sharply different visions of the meaning of the First Amendment and the role of government in regulating elections, with the majority deeply skeptical of government efforts to control participation in politics, and the minority saying that such oversight was needed to ensure a functioning democracy.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for four justices in the controlling opinion, said the overall limits could not survive First Amendment scrutiny. “There is no right in our democracy more basic,” he wrote, “than the right to participate in electing our political leaders.”

In a dissent from the bench, Justice Stephen G. Breyer called the majority opinion a disturbing development that raised the overall contribution ceiling to “the number infinity.”

“If the court in Citizens United opened a door,” he said, “today’s decision may well open a floodgate.”

Such oral dissents are rare, and they signal deep disagreements. But Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Breyer noted from the bench that the other side’s arguments were well presented.

Wednesday’s decision did not affect familiar base limits on contributions from individuals to candidates, currently $2,600 per candidate in primary and general elections. But it said that overall limits of $48,600 by individuals every two years for contributions to all federal candidates violated the First Amendment, as did separate aggregate limits on contributions to political party committees, currently $74,600.
In his written opinion, Justice Breyer said Wednesday’s decision would allow “a single individual to contribute millions of dollars to a political party or to a candidate’s campaign.” He was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

The ruling, which goes in effect in a matter of weeks, concerned only contributions from individuals. Federal law continues to ban direct contributions by corporations and unions, though they remain free to spend unlimited sums through “super PACs” and similar vehicles.

The case, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, No. 12-536, was brought by Shaun McCutcheon, an Alabama businessman, and the Republican National Committee. Mr. McCutcheon, who had contributed a total of about $33,000 to 16 candidates for federal office in the 2012 election cycle, said he had wanted to give $1,776 each to 12 more but was stopped by the overall cap for individuals. The party committee said it wanted to receive contributions above the legal limit for political committees.
America has never been a true democracy. She has simply managed to deceive the masses with the illusion of democracy. From the day of her birth, the United States has always been a plutocracy. She is literally a government for the rich, by the rich. The composition of Congress is proof. It is a millionaires club. As reported in the Washington Post, "Lawmakers’ average net worth in 2012 nosed above the seven-figure mark to $1,008,767, according to a new analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics, up from the none-too-shabby $966,000 the year before." In addition, through campaign contributions, political ads and lobbyists, the rich and the corporations have significant influence over the electoral process and legislative process. 

Before Citizens United and McCutcheon, the power elite already wielded undue influence over politicians on the local, state and federal levels.  Those court decisions will simply make it easier and less cumbersome for the bourgeoisie to maintain its dictatorship over the various branches of government. As the top one percent exercise their "First Amendment right" to buy politicians and judges, the rest of us will watch our rights and power diminish.

If we do not mobilize and organize, we will watch all campaign contribution limits be eliminated and the facade of democracy will come tumbling down.  We must fight to create a far more democratic society.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Devil's Advocate: The Case of Robert Richards IV

Common Dreams reports that:
This happened: Robert Richards IV, an unemployed heir to the du Pont chemical fortune who lives supported by a trust fund in a $1.8 million mansion, was given probation by a Delaware judge who ruled Richards would "not fare well" in prison even though he admitted raping his three-year-old daughter and, later, molesting his infant son. After Richards hired the best lawyer his money could buy to get him a plea deal in the 2009 case, Judge Jan Jurden ruled he would be better served by treatment than in prison where bad guys might hurt him - which is, coincidentally, true of so many other people currently rotting in cells, many of whom just, say, held up a 7/11 when they were broke, a crime considerably less heinous than raping your own children, except, see, they couldn't afford Richards' lawyer. The ruling has just come to light with the filing of a lawsuit by Richards' ex-wife, who is seeking damages for her children. So the next time someone tells you they believe justice is blind to race, class and money in America, do please tell them this story.

This is yet another reminder that we do not live in a true democracy. This is another case of affluenza, white privilege on crack. We live in a plutocracy where too often justice is manipulated, distorted and denied based on race and class. The system protects and defends devils like Robert Richards IV.