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Keeping the Pentagon honest

40 Years After the US Defeat and the Liberation of Vietnam, Washington is Trying to Say it was a Good -- and Successful--War

In this podcast of the latest "This Can't Be Happening!" weekly broadcast on PRN.fm, ThisCantBeHappening.net collective member John Grant, a Vietnam War veteran and long-time peace activist, talks with show host Dave Lindorff about a Veterans for Peace campaign to counter the Pentagon's latest PR initiative to rewrite and distort the history of the Vietnam War. Grant says the VFP's Vietnam War Full Disclosure Project is calling out the Pentagon to correct the historical falsehoods in its multi-million-dollar 50th Year Commemoration of the Vietnam War propaganda program.

As part of that, the Full Disclosure Project is also asking veterans as well as peace activists who worked against that decades-long imperialist war to write "letters to the Wall" which will be delivered on Memorial Day to the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, DC.

Go here to listen to the program.

John Grant (l) talks about the Pentagon's PR campaign to rewrite Vietnam War history with Dave Lindorff (r) on PRN.fmJohn Grant (l) talks about the Pentagon's PR campaign to rewrite Vietnam War history with Dave Lindorff (r) on PRN.fm

Did a “nickel ride” kill Freddie Gray?

Philadelphians Know All About Police Murder by Van Ride

 

Philadelphians don’t have any problem figuring out what happened to Freddie Gray, the 25-year old black man who died as a result of a severed spine at the neck while being transported in a police van by Baltimore Police, after being picked up on a trumped up charge when he ran away from two bicycle cops.

Here in Philadelphia, Police have long enjoyed giving arrested men who mouth off to them during arrests what is known fondly in the department as a “nickel ride.” That’s where they put their captive in the back of the van, hands bound behind his back so he cannot hold on to anything or protect himself, and otherwise unrestrained. Then the driver of the vehicle accelerates repeatedly, whips around corners and periodically slams on the breaks, causing the helpless captive in the back to slam against various parts of the vehicle, often with his head.

Back in 2001, an investigative journalism series run by the Philadelphia Inquirer exposed the practice, which had led to numerous injuries of arrested people, and to secret payouts by the department to some of those most grievously injured, including one man who was paralyzed from the neck down by a spinal injury similar to that suffered by Gray. The victim, permanently disabled, received a payment of $1.2 million, the newspaper reported.

The Inquirer exposé led to calls for a halt to the criminal practice, but a 2013 article in the same publication reported that police were back at it again. It cited at least three serious incidents that had led to a lawsuit against the department. One of those victims, 31-year-old Ryan Roberts, a burglary suspect, was delivered to the hospital with injuries all over his body, including to the back of his head. He died later. Though the cause of death was listed by the hospital as “cocaine intoxication,” the lawsuit alleges that he actually died of his injuries, sustained in the van ride, when he was left unrestrained in the back of the vehicle.
'Nickel Ride': interior of a Philadelphia police van where unrestrained captives were slammed around sometimes fatally, during transport'Nickel Ride': interior of a Philadelphia police van where unrestrained captives were slammed around, deliberately and sometimes fatally, during transport
 

Big donations are great, but what we really want are lots of small ones

Most of Our Readers Don't Get It: Alternative Reporting is Not a Charity


Okay, I guess it's time for us to spell it out: We're two months into our first and only fund-raising drive, hoping to raise $20,000, which we could easily do if our regular readers all just gave $1 apiece. Instead, we have a small number of you readers who repeatedly give generous donations of $25-$300 (thank you!). The rest of you give exactly nothing, zip, nada, zilch.

The upshot is that we don't come close to raising the kind of money that would allow the members of this collective -- who put out the reports on this award-winning site for nothing, doing the reporting and writing in our spare time -- to cut back on our day jobs and actually devote serious time to alternative news reporting.

There's really no excuse. You all clearly want what we are producing, and value our reports (we know that because you keep coming back and reading what we write), and yet, by and large, you, our readers, are just taking it for free. It's bad enough that the vast majority of you evidently don't feel any solidarity at all to support our work with a few bucks (which can be sent via Paypal account, credit card, or by mail as a check or cash). But solidarity aside, just from the point of view of self-interest, we could provide so much more of the unique news we have been providing for almost four years if we had some serious money coming in to support us in that work.

So readers, hear our call! Suck it up, show some solidarity, support what we do, don't just take it, and send us what you can. We're hoping from $5 per reader, but even $1 would help, if you all did it.

It's easy: use the handy Paypal button above, or send cash or a check made out to Dave Lindorff/TCBH to POB 846, Ambler, PA 19002

Watch what happens if you all finally start coming through with that support!
If you haven't contributed yet, please try sending even $5 (we know we're worth at least that much).

And please spread the word about this site to friends and acquaintances using the envelope icon below. That doesn't even cost anything. Together we can do this!

Our rights are forgotten.

The Government/Corporate Debate on Encryption: How Best to Spy on You

 

A debate, going on in the quasi-private and well-catered halls of government-corporate collusion, has reached the post-smoldering stage. It's now a virtual forest fire in full public view.

It pits government spies against corporate cannibals and is about the often misunderstood and somewhat tedious issue of encryption.

Like so many "raging debates" among the powerful, this one is more important to most of us not for what is being said but what is assumed.

The all-important key!The all-important key! (courtesy of Hackwhiz - http://www.hackwiz.com)
 

To believe the corporate PR releases (and some media reports), the two sides are debating the balance between protecting our rights and protecting our lives.. In fact, the debate is more about how to effectively manage spying: the government says it wants companies to give it the codes to crack all encryption while the companies are devising ways to make sure the government has a court order, or inter-agency collaboration, before doing that.

Nobody is saying the obvious: cracking encryption to steal data is unconstitutional and illegal and this debate is taking place at a moment when massive movements of protest are convering the streets of our cities organized through social media and cell-phone communications. In a sense, this is the fight over how they'll cross the line we can't let them cross.

Getting what’s been stolen from us by raising the employer FICA tax

Time to Recover Productivity Gains Our Bosses Have Expropriated for Decades

 

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, trying to change the subject from his own shabby performance as governor, has called for $1 trillion in cuts to Social Security and Medicare over 10 years, claiming it’s time for a “grownup discussion” of the alleged funding crisis facing both critically important programs.

Actually, his claim that the programs are too expensive is childish and misleading. Yes there is a projected shortfall in funds to cover benefits for a looming wave of Baby Boomers in retirement, starting in 2033, assuming nothing is done by Congress to raise revenues, but actually fixing that problem is easy.

Here’s one proposal for solving the shortfall in the Social Security Trust Fund that was set up in 1983 to pre-fund the surge in benefits expected as the Baby Boomer generation retires, but which, because of stagnant wages, longer life expectancy, and a decade of no economic growth is going to be depleted prematurely: just raise the payroll tax that employers have to contribute to Social Security.

Studies have shown that just raising the FICA tax, historically paid 50% by workers and 50% by employers, by 1% each, would eliminate the Trust Fund shortfall completely. That’s $10 more on a $1000 weekly paycheck, $3 more on a $300 paycheck -- a barely noticeable uptick in taxation to assure full benefits through one’s retired years.

This simple solution has been opposed, not so much by the public, but by corporate America, which doesn’t want to pay higher payroll taxes for its employees. Republicans, and some conservative Democrats who receive oodles of corporate campaign cash, listen to that kind of thing.

But the truth is corporate America has been doing just fine. It’s just the American worker who’s been suffering. In fact, the reason workers have been suffering is that they have been getting short-changed their bosses.
This guy, NJ Gov. Christy, wants to steal $1 billion of your Social Security and Medicare funding. The capitalists of America haThis guy, NJ Gov. Christy, wants to steal $1 billion of your Social Security and Medicare funding. The capitalists of America are way ahead of him -- they've been stealing your productivity gains for decades
 

Legacy of racism and colonialism targeted

Reparations Movements Meet To Make International Connections

 

Dignitaries from three continents gathered in New York City recently to sharpen their strategies for confronting some of the world’s most powerful nations over a subject that sizeable numbers of citizens support in the nearly two-dozen nations represented: reparations for the legacy of a history of slavery, colonialism and government-sanctioned segregation.

Those dignitaries, whose number included ambassadors and legislators, along with luminary activists and legal experts, participated in the three-day International Reparations Summit convened by the Institute of the Black World 21st Century, a research, policy and advocacy organization based in the United States.

Dr. Ron Daniels, President of the Institute, stated, “We are delighted that the Institute of the Black World can be a clearinghouse for ideas and strategies on how to pursue reparations for historical crimes and injustices against people of African descent in the U.S. and across the Americas.”

An action in 2013 reenergized reparations activities already operative in the U.S., throughout the Americas, in Africa and in Europe. That is when CARICOM, the organization of Caribbean nations, announced its plans to also mount actions against former European colonial countries for native the slave trade, colonialism and genocide against indigenous peoples. That was the first time that a collection of countries had agreed on taking coordinated action for reparations.

“We have a just cause. And we have a duty to right the wrongs done during the slave trade, slavery and colonialism,” CARICOM representative Dr. Douglas Slater said during the opening session of the Summit. “Today, racism continues to impede development of African peoples all over the world.”
Seeking reparations for centuries of genocide against Native Americans (l) and Black slaves (r)Seeking reparations for centuries of genocide against Native Americans (l) and Black slaves (r)
 

Cops, Cameras and Justice

A Hero With a Cell Phone Instead of a Gun

 
        This is “deeply troubling on many fronts.”
        - South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham
 
I’m a photographer, and the police shooting of Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina, feels like a major watershed in the on-going struggle between cops and cameras. Like no other story, this one starkly shows the power of a camera in the hands of a courageous citizen at the right place and the right time. And the technology is getting more sophisticated, cheaper and smaller by the day.

Due to an official prejudice for police narratives, the case was headed to become another murky police shooting of a black man masticated in the media and criminal justice system into a free pass for police violence. A brave citizen with a cell phone camera changed that instantly. At that point the local police chief and the mayor of North Charleston agonized in public, as South Carolina politicians rushed to the cameras to show their disgust. A video image of the shamed officer wearing striped prison garb and handcuffs was publicly released to exhibit his fate.

..

[Clockwise from top left: Walter Scott; Officer Michael Slager; distressed Police Chief Eddie Driggers and North Charleston Mayor R. Keith Summey; Walter Scott's mother, Judy, and cellphone cameraman Feidin Santana being thanked by the Scott family.]

Walter Scott was shot to death over a broken taillight on his neighbor’s used Mercedes he was reportedly about to purchase. We’re learning from places like Ferguson, Missouri, and a report from Los Angeles, California, how minor traffic stops for African Americans too often lead to further, deepening arrest and jailing complications. It’s the application of Rudy Giuliani’s beloved “broken windows” policy to minor vehicular infractions. It's also called police harassment.

In such a petty, oppressive climate, Scott’s ultimately fatal decision to flee a white officer who had stopped him for a busted taillight was understandable. As the procedure is constructed to play out, Officer Slager had likely stopped Scott for the taillight as a pretext to go through his computer to look for more serious and outstanding infractions. It's a "gotcha" moment. In the dash-cam video, as Officer Slager walks to the driver's side window of the Mercedes, he gives the taillight a gentle, loving tap. Whether Scott owed child support or whatever, it seems he felt further complications like jail were a likelihood. Like anyone, Scott had a life that meant other commitments that day. As you watch the dash-cam video of Scott waiting in his car, you can imagine a host of things going through his mind. He apparently called his mother during those seconds before he decided to bolt from the car, leaving his driver’s license in the hands of Officer Slager.

New poem:

No hurry

 
 
It was after a sweat lodge,
early spring this was,
(l’ll never forget it)
when we raised the flap
the forest was covered in four inches of snow
that had fallen during the last two rounds,
and so it caught us all by surprise.
It was late and dark.
It had stopped falling and was just there
where it wasn’t before,
all luminous
as we emerged from the lodge.
 
That’s how nature is sometimes,
it’s like she’s saying,
 
Oh, you think you’ve figured me out?
We’ll see about that!

 
So we drove down to that lodge in spring
and we drove back home in winter.
And on the way home a mother moose
and her young one
got out in front of our car,
using our headlights
as their beacon to find their way to Tinmouth
where they finally veered off before the school.
I guess the mother didn’t want to deal
with all that snow in the woods
and she was on a mission;
for two miles we illuminated her way.
Not sure if her own shadow was a hole in the road,
she wove back and forth the whole time.
This slowed us down considerably,
down to maybe 4, 5 miles an hour.
But we were in no hurry.
Having just sweated with a bunch of friends
we were all prayed out,
feeling pretty good,
pretty human.
And we just weren’t in any hurry,
no hurry at all.
 
 
--Gary Lindorff

Real-time photo evidence of a cop trying to plant evidence on his victim

Killer Cops like North Charleston’s Officer Slager Must Be Called to Account

 

The really damning evidence about the North Charleston police murder of a fleeing black man, Walter Scott, is not the image of him shooting Scott in the back, outrageous and murderous as that is (see screen grab image #1 from the phone video). It’s what happens in the video next, from about 1:02 minutes into the recording until 1.37 minutes.

Officer Slater shooting the fleeing, unarmed Scott in the back multiple times (screen grab #1)Officer Slater shooting the fleeing, unarmed Scott in the back multiple times (screen grab #1)
 

That’s when we see Officer Michael Thomas Slager, who had just handcuffed the clearly dead or dying Scott, suddenly stand up and start running (see screen grab image two) back to the place where he had fired the eight shots from.

Officer Slater races back to where he had stood when shooting, to retrieve evidence to plant on Scott's body (screen grab #2)Officer Slater races back to where he had stood when shooting, to retrieve evidence to plant on Scott's body (screen grab #2)
 

This is the planet

 

A bear saves a crow from drowning.
A baboon and a dog and a deer frolic in a field.
A little girl feeds the crows
And receives gifts from them in exchange.

This is the planet we are living on,
Not that other one that we are beating up.

An Orca lifts up a kayak on its back.
A parrot feeds a puppy its kibble snack.
A raven slides down a snowy roof on a dog dish.

This is the planet we are living on.
Not that other one that we are selling off piecemeal.

A man on death row manages to prove his innocence
Days before his execution.
He leaves his own freedom party,
Walks to the end of the backyard,
Throws his arms around an apple tree
And weeps.

This is the planet we are living on.
Not the one that knows no love.

A deer raises her head to watch me skirting the field.
And as I climb the fence into the orchard
She lowers her head to graze.

This is the planet we live on.
Not the one that we have forgotten.
 
 
  --Gary Lindorff

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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.

Donate $50 to ThisCantBeHappening.net and get a free signed copy, postage paid, of Dave's classic tome The Case for Impeachment (St. Martin's Press, 2006). Just click on the cover image to go to the Paypal payment page, make your payment, and send a note to Dave calling his attention to the payment, and giving your mail address and the name you want the inscription addressed to.

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by Dr. Radut