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Jeff Sessions, Jesus Christ and Reefer Madness

Gnome Takes Axe to Drug War Reform

 
Good people don't smoke marijuana.
         - Jeff Sessions

Gage ain’t nothin’ but medicine.
         - Louis Armstrong

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
         - Matthew 5:7 (The words of Jesus Christ)
 

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has sent a memo to all federal attorneys (those he hasn't fired) setting in motion a radical reversal of the trend toward bi-partisan reform that has been building for at least a decade in the criminal justice system and the drug war. The memo states: "Any inconsistent previous policy of the Department of Justice related to these matters is rescinded, effective today." This flies in the face of a movement that has led 30 states to reform their criminal justice systems in the area of mass incarceration. Sessions would, from the top down, re-establish “the sort of mass incarceration strategy that helped flood prisons during the war on drugs in the 1980s and 1990s,” according to The New York Times. “We’re going to double down on an approach everybody else has walked away from,” says Kevin Ring, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums. Sessions has personally emphasized a particular disdain for marijuana, as in the remark cited above. The federal government, of which Sessions is the top lawman, has adamantly refused to ease its marijuana laws as state after state modifies or legalizes their laws.

A call to prayer, a pipe and Sessions in the Times. (Photo left, Lou Ann Merkle, right, John Grant)A call to prayer, a pipe and Sessions in the Times. (Photo left, Lou Ann Merkle, right, John Grant)

As I read this stuff, all I can think is Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a guy who needs to smoke a doobie. It must be incredibly stressful being attorney general in an administration in tragic free-fall, especially after he was forced to recuse himself on the intense Russia collusion investigation due to lying about his own meetings with Russians. Meanwhile, profound change is in the air as the nation's business is rapidly being consumed into a wildly expanding internet-connected world that threatens to unravel life as we know it. Narrow-minded concerns like re-toughening sentencing for drug offenses seems dangerously out-of-synch with the times. There is so much research on the tenets of harm reduction as an alternative approach to incarceration and the ideas of a "war" on drugs that to suddenly wind the clock backwards now is tantamount to a crime in itself. One has to wonder: What's up with this fellow from Alabama?

Neurology Study Reveals What We Already Know: People of Color Get Worse Healthcare

Maybe one day we’ll spend more energy addressing racism instead of continuing to prove it exists

 

In the most recent issue of Neurology, Dr. Altaf Saadi and colleagues reveal the disheartening news that African Americans and Hispanic Americans receive lower quality neurologic care than their white counterparts.

Analyzing data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey from 2006-2013, they found that Black patients were 30% less likely to see an outpatient neurologist even after adjusting for social factors such as insurance coverage. Hispanic patients were 40% less likely.

They looked at neurologic diseases such as stroke, headache, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and epilepsy. According to the CDC, strokes kill over 130,000 Americans each year, about 5% of deaths. Strokes are also the leading cause of long-term disability. Furthermore, the risk of stroke is nearly twice as high for Black Americans as opposed to whites. Yet, despite higher rates of stroke, Black Americans are seeing neurologists, the experts on strokes, less.

The authors postulate that there are likely simultaneous factors. The first factor they cite is low health literacy. Not only are patients unaware of all the possible follow up care that can prevent another stroke or minimize the impact of a recent one, folks might not even recognize the symptoms of stroke, multiple sclerosis, or Parkinson’s disease to begin with.

Folks of color are more likely to have their care across more than one healthcare system making it difficult for the primary care doctor, the emergency room doctor, the neurologist, and the hospital doctor to coordinate their care. If you live in the Southeastern United States, the number of neurologic specialists is far lower than anywhere else in the country.

And finally, the impact of implicit bias and stereotyping cannot be underestimated. Though most doctors are well intentioned and would like to be “color-blind” study after study has shown that we have also absorbed the subtle messages that society sends us that folks of color are inferior or less deserving of care. As this study points out, even at high volume specialty sites, Black and Hispanic patients get delayed care compared to whites.

But perhaps the most distressing part of this article is that time and resources were put towards it at all. We already know that Black Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, get lower quality care and that they die younger because of it. David Hatcher, former Surgeon General reports that from 1991-2000, 880,000 excess deaths could have been averted had the health of Black Americans matched that of whites.

Hounding Trump and Trumping Up Russia as America's New Enemy

Dave Lindorff and Kevin Zeese on Sputnik Radio's 'Loud & Clear' with host Brian Becker

Sputnik Radio's 'Loud&Clear' with host Brian Becker (click on the image to hear the segment with Lindorff and Zeese)Sputnik Radio's 'Loud&Clear' with host Brian Becker (click on the image to hear the segment with Lindorff and Zeese)

Dems Doom 2018 Chances by Labeling Trump a Russian Puppet, not Just Another Sleazy Plutocrat

Chasing red squirrels in DC

 

Democratic politicians, aided and abetted by their journalist supporters in publications like the Washington Post, New York Times and at electronic news organizations like CNN, MSNBC and NPR, are playing a dangerous game focusing their anti-Trump “resistance” energies on trying to revivify the moribund Cold War with Russia and China.

You hear almost nothing out of Democratic Party establishment figures about the continuing economic crisis facing most average and poor Americans, who continue to struggle trying to get by on lower paying jobs than what they had before the Great Recession (supposedly ended!), or working at part-time jobs, living from paycheck to paycheck while the rich get richer, and having the traditional tickets out of their family’s predicament -- a quality public school education and then college for their kids, a home they can finance and ultimately own, and a secure support system for their parents, and eventually themselves when they reach retirement age -- undermined and threatened with death by a thousand cuts -- all taken from them.

Instead, the American public hears from Democrats and a liberal media how President Trump is in some kind of conspiracy with the evil Russians, who we’re told insidiously helped destroy America’s election system, handing the presidency to Trump instead of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

There are so many things wrong with this picture.

First off, Russia these days, almost three decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, is not America’s enemy -- something that at least half of Americans understand instinctively, including most of those who voted for Trump in November. 86,000 US tourists and business people visited Russia in 2015, part of some 33 million who visited the country from around the globe to make it the ninth-most-visited country in the world.

XXXX
 

Forbes magazine, when tensions between the US and Russia were high amid Democratic Party charges that Russia was trying to throw the election to Trump last August, published an article reporting that billions of investment dollars were flowing from the US into Russia from a Fortune 500 list of America’s biggest firms, including PepsiCo, Procter&Gamble, McDonald's, Mondelez International, General Motors, Johnson & Johnson as well as resource companies like Cargill, Alcoa, and General Electric.

Russia, let us not forget, has been keeping the primarily US-owned and funded ISS space station staffed with its Soyuz rocket ferries, while the US flounders, trying to find the funding to develop a reliable transport system of its own following the forced retirement of the ill-conceived space shuttle.

US Hegemony over Korean Peninsula Challenged by North Korea, and by New South Korean President

Washington can only delay, but not halt North Korea's self-defense advances

 

UPDATE: Massive weekly candlelight demonstrations that began last fall on Oct. 29 and that brought an incredible 2.3 million into the streets of central Seoul on Dec. 3 have been transforming South Korea's politics and society, pressuring the National Assembly to impeach and oust the corrupt President Park Geun-hye and now bringing about the election of a peace candidate from the Democratic Party of Korea (DPK), Moon Jae-in.

Moon’s election is a historic moment pregnant with new opportunities.

A human rights lawyer and former student activist, Moon is calling for an end to threats by the US against North Korea and for the adoption of a policy of friendship and peaceful negotiation with the north.

His biggest challenge though will be ending the subservient colonial-status that lies at the heart of the US-South Korea relationship, dating back to the US military occupation of South Korea that began in 1945 with the end of World War II.

Many Americans may know that the Korean War never really ended, and that rather, with the armies of China and the US and their respective North and South Korean “allies” having battled to a stalemate at roughly where the border was at the start of the war, an armistice was signed. What Americans don’t know is that since the Korean War began, ostensibly under the authority of a United Nations Security Council resolution, the US, under the facade of calling itself the “UN Command,” has continued to exercise full and unfettered control over the armed forces of the Republic of Korea.

This unprecedented situation even led a prominent US commander, the late Gen. Richard G. Stilwell, to call the relationship "the most remarkable concession of sovereignty in the entire world." Gen. Stilwell went on to note that relying upon a twisted interpretation of the UN resolution that authorized war against North Korea, the US has asserted that it has full authority, acting supposedly in South Korea’s interest, even to use nuclear weapons against the North.

An attempt was made by an earlier peace-advocating candidate from the DPK elected to the presidency to eliminate the U.N. Command but it was rejected on June 24 1994 because the US simply would not allow it. The Security Council, under US influence, merely "recommended" the creation of a unified command, specifying that "it be under the authority of the United States" -- a meaningless change in phraseology. Technically, in 1994 the South Korean government was granted control over its military during peace time, but the US would retain control over the country’s military during any time of conflict with the North. That situation is projected to remain in force into some unspecified time in the 2020s.

Thus, the US alone, 67 years after the start of the Korean War, still claims the authority to "decide on the continued existence or the dissolution of the United Nations Command."

This cancer, which leaves South Korea -- the seventh largest national economy in terms of GDP right behind the UK and one of Asia’s most modern countries -- as little more than a vassal state or colony of the US, needs to be excised. We will see how the new Moon administration grapples with it and how far the US will go to try and preserve this pathological relationship.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 
Test launch of USTHAAD missile defense system now installed in South Korea against the government's wishes (army.mil photo)Test launch of US THAAD missile defense system now installed in South Korea against the popular wishes -- and amid doubts that it would work anyway against a real missile attack. (Army.mil photo)
 

North Korea today is not the North Korea of 1994 when President Bill Clinton seriously considered a preemptive strike against the Yongbyon nuclear reactor. Back then North Korea did not possess any nuclear weapons.

Now North Korea possesses the knowledge of nuclear weapons technology and any US cyberattacks can only slow the process of weapons development but not stop it. Most likely the North’s ability to reconstitute nuclear weapons technology is there for good -- and it is proceeding with ICBM experiments too.

US Values, Moral Accommodation and Remembering Vietnam

A Popular Culture Essay

 
The past two days were a roller-coaster for me in the national struggle for meaning in the realm of war and peace. First, I was talking with a friend about his conscientious objector status specifically to the Vietnam War. This was early in the war, and he made it under the wire. Soon, draft boards realized they better stop giving CO status to those morally opposing a specific war, lest they encourage a groundswell of opposition among potential combatants that could undermine an unpopular war like the one the US government chose to unleash on the Vietnamese. The war really began in 1945 when President Truman betrayed our WWII ally, the Vietnamese, and supported re-colonization by the French.

Senator John McCain and documentary filmmaker Ken BurnsSenator John McCain and documentary filmmaker Ken Burns

Later that night, I was part of an hour-long group phone call of fellow Vietnam veterans and friends in an organization called Full Disclosure. The group works to counter the government’s well-funded 13-year propaganda project to clean up the image of the Vietnam War; it emphasizes individual heroism and passes out badges and plaques to veterans. Members of Full Disclosure are very concerned right now about the upcoming Ken Burns 10-week PBS documentary series on the Vietnam War. Trying to get any kind of influence with Burns or members of his team on how the war is to be represented to Americans in 2017 is an uphill struggle.

Following the Full Disclosure phone call, I watched Mel Gibson’s excruciating film Hacksaw Ridge, about a CO medic who refused to even touch a rifle and saved 75 men from certain death in a horrific battle on the island of Okinawa in May 1945. I find Mel Gibson to be a repugnant lout; but my CO friend told me the film was a must-see. The husband of a gay Vietnam veteran friend who was a Navy corpsman with a Marine infantry unit in Vietnam also told me the film was good and how it reminded him of his husband’s experiences in Vietnam. (My medic friend felt no need to personally sit through Gibson’s gore fest.) Like the protagonist of Hacksaw Ridge, my friend refused to carry a weapon and saved men with sucking chest wounds and mangled and bleeding legs. He had been assured by a Navy recruiter he would be sent to journalism school, but Navy leaders did not need young men to assemble facts and information on the war; they needed what is historically known as cannon fodder, specifically cannon fodder able to keep other men alive. As cannon fodder, my friend's sexual preference was irrelevant.

Philly DA Office Must Provide All Records of Top Judge’s Role as DA in Opposing Mumia Appeal

An opening to challenge Abu-Jamal’s conviction

 

A Philadelphia judge has issued a stunningly powerful order requiring the city’s District Attorney’s Office to locate and release all documents related to the involvement of a former top prosecutor in the most contentious murder case in Philadelphia’s history. Because that former DA, Ronald Castille later became- a state supreme court justice and ultimately chief justice, the order could shine a light onto the dark legacy of ethics shredding misconduct by members of the state’s highest court.

It also opens the door a crack to the possibility that Mumia Abu-Jamal, currently serving a life sentence without possibility of parole, could have his 1982 murder conviction for the killing of a white Philadelphia police officer overturned.

The order, issued recently by Common Pleas Judge Leon Tucker, comes in an appeal filed by attorneys for celebrated jailhouse journalist Abu-Jamal. It represents yet another setback for the Philadelphia’s District Attorneys Office, an office already reeling from federal corruption charges filed recently against the city’s current DA Seth Williams.

Philadelphia prosecutors have spent decades fighting to sustain Abu-Jamal’s murder conviction for the 1981 shooting death Philadelphia police officer, Daniel Faulkner. Since Abu-Jamal’s conviction by a mostly white jury in 1982, entities as diverse as Amnesty International, government officials in the U.S and abroad plus prominent individuals around the world have condemned his trial, conviction and appeals process as a miscarriage of justice fraught with misconduct by prosecutors and judges, including members of Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court.

The current Abu-Jamal appeal centers on the legal unfairness of actions taken by former Philadelphia DA Castille, who as top prosecutor, oversaw the legal effort to keep Abu-Jamal on Pennsylvania’s death row, and then later served as a state Supreme Court justice ruling on appeals of those very actions by his former office.

Years after his election to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in 1993, Castille joined six other court justices in rejecting an appeal by Abu-Jamal for a new trial based on documented evidence of egregious misconduct by police, prosecutors and the judge who presided over Abu-Jamal’s original 1982 trial and over his initial Post Conviction Relief Act hearing in 1995.

Retired PA Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald Castille, Philadelphia Common Please Judge Leon Tucker and Mumia Abu-JamalRetired PA Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald Castille, Philadelphia Common Please Judge Leon Tucker and Mumia Abu-Jamal
 

Abu-Jamal’s legal team recently argued that Castille’s vote in the court’s 1998 rejection of their client’s appeal violated ethics provisions covering all judges in Pennsylvania –- a basic legal rights issue brushed aside by Pennsylvania’s high court in its unanimous 1998 ruling.

This latest Abu-Jamal appeal centers on a 2016 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in Williams v. Pennsylvania granting convicted murderer Terrance Williams a new trial because of Justice Castille’s refusal to recuse himself from a decision on Williams’ appeal of his conviction. The U.S. Supreme Court in that case blasted Castille because he had, as DA, approved the decision to seek the death penalty against Williams. His later vote as the state’s top judge denying an appeal of that conviction included his dismissal of chilling documentation that Philadelphia prosecutors working for him had unlawfully withheld critical exculpatory evidence during Williams' trial -- a circumstance similar to documented evidence of prosecutorial misconduct in the Abu-Jamal case.

Mr. Heron

 
It’s really very simple,
How things are going to change.
 
We learn what we need to know by watching
How Mr. heron stands in the marsh.
 
He stands until the tide ebbs
To the point where a large fish
 
Leaps free
As if tossed up by the water
 
In a floppy arc.
And then Mr. Heron stirs
 
Like a business man
In a dark suit,
 
Lifting himself slowly on wings
That never hurry.
 
And then you turn to me and say,
He looks sad.
 
Yes, it is much sadder than beautiful
To watch him fly away.
 
 
--Gary Lindorff
 
garylindorff.wordpress.com

No US War on North Korea

An optimistic perspective on a scary crisis

 

North Korea is threatening to destroy the US with its thus far largely undeliverable and sometimes unexplodable nuclear weapons, while the US, after an embarrassing navigational "mishap" that saw it steaming in the opposite direction, has successfully dispatched the USS Carl Vinson carrier battle group to a position reportedly within "strike range" of North Korea (albeit actually still in the South China Sea near the Philippines, some 1200 miles distant from North Korea). Now President Trump is threatening a possible attack on that country if it won't halt its nuclear weapons program.

So is the Korean War, which never really ended, going to be reactivated, as scare stories are now warning?

While I often find myself the pessimist in these kinds of crises, given the penchant for US presidents to turn to war as a default foreign policy option, I'm guessing that won't happen in this case, and for the same reason I don't think we will see US troops confronting the determined ethnic Russian secessionists in eastern Ukraine.

It's clear that for years the imperialist policy of the US government, under both Republican and Democratic presidents, has been to create chaos in regions of the world from the Middle East to Africa and Latin America, the better to control uppity countries like Libya, Syria, Venezuela, Bolivia and Brazil, whose leaders try to buck or stand up to US dictates. But it's one thing to overthrow a government and decapitate its leadership in a place like Libya or Syria, where no powerful state is located nearby to defend that country. It's altogether another to take on a country that lies right on the border of another nuclear power, as does Ukraine and the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea.

There was nobody to come to Col. Gaddafi's aid when US-led NATO forces attacked his government, backing rebels seeking his overthrow, and left the country a chaotic mess, which it has remained now for six years. And until Russia stepped in, the same was true of US backing for Islamic rebels seeking to overthrow Syrian President Basher Al-Assad. Ukraine was something of an exception, with the US backing a coup in 2014 that ousted the country's elected pro-Russian president, installing in his place a pro-US regime, despite its bordering Russia. My sense is that US warmongers still thought Russia was a backwards mess in 2014, incapable of standing up and with a dysfunctional military. When Russia acted, though, and made it clear, with the annexation of Crimea and with material support of ethnic Russians in breakaway Lugansk and Donetsk, that it would brook no departure of Ukraine into NATO's fold, the US backed off, despite plenty of bluster from the Obama White House and its laughably inept Secretary of State John Kerry.

The USS Carl Vinson, somewhere in the Pacific...or the Indian OceanThe USS Carl Vinson, somewhere in the Pacific...or the Indian Ocean
 

I'm predicting that the same thing will happen in the case of North Korea (which borders both China and Russia). The Trump administration may threaten to attack, but the bottom line is that a US attack on North Korea, or even a so-called "surgical strike" on its nuclear weapons development facility or a special forces attack on its leader, Kim Jong-un, would be viewed by China's government as a mortal threat to their country's national security, just as Russia views any effort to turn Ukraine into a US puppet and NATO member as a mortal threat to itself.

Two Men Who Made Their Mark On History

Truth defenders

 

One man enhanced the legacy of a legend revered around the world.

Accomplishments of the other man include his involvement in a seminal court battle where the trial judge issued a pivotal ruling about racism that sparked enraged denials among authorities in that nation.

These two men made historic marks that had wide ranging impact in the countries that each adopted as their home.

While both of these men lived over 5,000-miles apart, they shared many similarities.

Both men experienced poisonous smacks from British colonial racism. Both men spent time in America. The civil rights/freedom struggles of African-Americans influenced both men. And, both men died recently, just days apart.

These two men are: Ngugi Githuka and Darcus Howe.
 
Ngugi Githuka talks with tourists outside Mandela House Museum. LBWPhotoNgugi Githuka talks with tourists outside Mandela House Museum. LBWPhoto

Historian Githuka often worked as a tour guide in Johannesburg, South Africa. Influential activist turned journalist Darcus Howe made his mark London, the capital of Great Britain.

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Fightin' Cock FlyerFightin' Cock Flyer

Listen as Chuck, John, Dave and Linn Join Prairie Radical Mike Caddell of the Fightin' Cock Flyer on Radio Free Kansas

Here's the link to prairie radio radical Mike Caddell's Radio Free Kansas program, where you can hear the podcast of the whole group interview that was conducted on Saturday, May 8.

Also, listen to Dave Lindorff on Chris Cook's Gorilla Radio on CFEV Radio in Victoria, Canada.

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