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Viva fuerte

New poem:

 
I’m standing firm and
you’re a rock.
The plinth is fracturing.
Your filter isn’t filtering
but at least it caught this poem.
 
My tongue is angry!
I have a snake in my shoe.
I’m in a funk:
Why aren’t we rising up
Like a thunderhead
 
Like a new brain in a petri dish?
A heart-shaped leaf
is waving in the breeze.
A lavender-tinted cow
stands behind me.
 
She is my ally.
A bird caught in a spider’s web
who I free just in the nick of time
is announcing an event
to a girls’ soccer team.
 
And they are listening.
I’m re-schooling myself.
My teachers were all afraid of me.
They were afraid of their own subjects.
The tests were all slanted toward
 
Submission and prostitution.
My car broke down
and wept.
I ate wild grapes like a bear.
I translated one single tear
 

Native American journalist Levi Rickert Discusses the Largest Political Action by Indigenous Americans since Wounded Knee in 1973

Standing Firm at Standing Rock

Levi Rickert, editor of Native News Online, a national publication of by and for the indigenous peoples of North America, talks about what he calls "the most significant political action by Native Americans since the American Indian Movement's 1973 Wounded Knee occupation" on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota.

 Native people blocking construction of an oil pipeline across Sioux sacred landsStanding firm at Standing Rock: Native people blocking construction of an oil pipeline across Sioux sacred lands

Rickert, a guest on Dave Lindorff's weekly "This Can't Be Happening!" radio program on the Progressive Radio Network, tells how activists from over 200 Indian tribes as well as representatives of indigenous peoples from around the world have converged at Standing Rock in North Dakota to back the local embattled Standing Rock Sioux People in the battle to defend their land and water against despoilation by the Army Corps of Engineers, which is trying to construct a pipeline across Sioux lands to carry Bakkan Field crude oil to St. Louis.

Levi Rickert, editor of Native News OnlineLevi Rickert, editor of Native News Online

To hear the whole half-hour interview, go to PRN.fm's 'This Can't Be Happening!'

We Should All Start 'Taking Responsibility' for our Transgressions

Wells Fargo's Stumpf leads the way

 

Hey Americans! Let's all start taking responsibility for what we do wrong. Let's all start being accountable for our actions or our lack of action.

John Stumpf, the CEO of Wells Fargo Bank, one of the nation's biggest "too-big-to-fail" banks, is showing us the way in to this bright new stand-up world.

When the government discovered that his bank had since as long ago as 2011 been boosting its bottom line by creating millions of credit card accounts in the name of but behind the backs of existing Wells Fargo clients, and then running up charges on those accounts, charging the unawares named holders of the cards late fees and interest for those charges, it slapped the bank with a $185-million fine. But as with prior criminal behavior by the nation's biggest banks (think Citibank, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase), it didn't indict any bank executives this time either.

But hey, this John Stumpf is a stand-up guy. He has told the media and the Senate Banking Committee that he takes "full responsibility" for the gigantic defrauding of the country's third largest bank's customers, and says that he is "accountable" for the high-pressure sales tactics demnded of low-level bank salespeople to make them produce sales of bank products -- the policy that led over 5300 of those employees to set up the fraudulent accounts.

But here's the beautiful thing: Standing up and saying "I take full responsibilty" and "I'm accountable" is really easy! You don't have to actually do anything and nothing happens to you! In fact, Stumpf admitted under questioning by Senate Banking Committee member Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic senator from Massachusetts, that he earned $19.3 million last year alone, $ 4 million of that a bonus for doing such a fine job of running the operation -- this in a year in which the bank and its board of directors was well aware that it was being investigated for the gigantic fraud. "Taking responsibilty" and being "accountable" doesn't apparently involve actually taking responsiblity or being accountable, as in stepping down from one's lucrative post as CEO, much less leaving one's firm. It doesn't apparently even mean taking a pay cut. Pretty neat really.

That's not true though for the thousands of employees who engaged in the actual act of creating the fraudulent charge accounts. They have all been fired by the bank, no doubt at Stumpf's direction. They took a substantial paycut for their criminal behavior, which one might say is a kind of "taking responsibility" for what they did, though perhaps they didn't do it voluntarily.

Model stand-up guy John Stumpf, CEO of Wells Fargo BankModel stand-up guy John Stumpf, CEO of Wells Fargo Bank
 

Don-The-Con's Record of Discrimination Undermines His Outreach to Blacks

Trumping bigotry

 

The other Big Story from the recent press conference Donald Trump held at his new luxury hotel in Washington DC was not related to what Trump said about the bigoted "Birther" issue that Trump exploited for years to burnish his brand as a political player.

That other Big Story, missed by the news media, was what Trump did not say about his professed outreach to African-Americans -- those tagged by Trump as “The Blacks.”

During that press conference where Trump blithely backed away, sort of, from the ‘Birther’ claim that President Obama was not born in America, Trump did not use that occasion to brag about the benefits black construction companies and black workers obtained from his $200-million luxury hotel project.

A Trump announcement that detailed how black businesses and workers benefited from his luxury hotel project could have boosted Trump’s recent campaign claims that he cares about “The Blacks.”

Protestor outside of Trump Tower in New York City with item to handle dung spread by The Donald. LBW PhotoProtestor outside of Trump Tower in New York City with item to handle dung spread by The Donald. LBW Photo
 

However, self-described billionaire businessman Trump’s historic record of failing to do business with black businesses undermined even this serial false-claim-maker from falsely proclaiming blacks received benefits from the renovation project that produced Trump’s latest luxury hotel.

The fact that the Washington, DC area is home to large numbers of qualified black construction companies and black construction workers did not prompt news media inquiries about the paucity of blacks involved with Trump’s multi-million dollar hotel project typified news media failings on issues involving race/racism.

Trump’s alleged outreach to African-Americans is yet another example of the charade that parades as Trump’s presidential campaign. This charade gains traction by shallow and unquestioning coverage in mainstream news media. The same news media that have dutifully extended coverage to Trump’s belated claims that he dislikes high unemployment rates among minorities did not question the literal Black-Out on Trump’s hotel project.

We can be forgiven

 
 
We can be forgiven
For not cleaning the cat litter today.
We can be forgiven
For leaving the bed unmade,
For leaving the car window open all night when it rained.
For burning the rice,
For not dating a check,
For hurting someone’s feelings,
For not remembering a birthday.
Even for running over a squirrel . . .
For breaking a favorite cup.
For forgetting someone doesn’t like onion,
For blaming someone for something they didn’t do . . .
For slamming a door
When someone is resting.
For breaking a promise,
For not remembering someone’s name.
But when the geese fly over, heading south,
Not to run out and watch them
And wish them well on their journey . . .
That,
That is unforgivable.
 
--Gary Lindorff

Time to Mandate a Return to Paper Ballots Nationwide

Forget fast, we need accurate elections

 

Politicians of both major parties love to boast that the US is the world’s oldest democracy and of course a “model for the world.” Putting aside the matter of whether or not that is even true (US “democracy” cannot really be said to have begun until women got the vote in 1920, and maybe until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 made voting by blacks truly a reality in parts of the country, and meanwhile Iceland’s Althing or parliament dates to 930 AD), the use of electronic voting machines in many jurisdictions has made any such claims a complete joke.

These needlessly confusing, often malfunctioning, and easily hackable devices, which have demonstrably done things like switch whole voting records from one candidate to another, or simply erased all votes cast in a day, and which are so costly that they are used as an excuse to provide only minimal opportunity to vote in many “undesirable” election districts, leading to lines that can require waiting hours outdoors just to get to cast a ballot, belie the claims made for the US to be a beacon of liberty and democratic governance.

So what’s the deal with these machines? Why do we even have them?

Voting in the UK (left) and the USVoting in the UK (left) and the US
 

The goal of any voting system should be accuracy, not speed of counting, and yet we see state after state and county after county getting sold on electronic equipment that is costly, error-ridden, failure prone, and unnecessary. For centuries, people in democracies have voted by raised hands or with paper ballots, with minimal problems given good official and volunteer oversight.

What is driving the switch to machines in the US is the media. The same corporate media that have turned campaigns into battles over soundbites, “gotcha” questions, and a focus on non-issues like whether a candidate’s hair is silly looking or whether he/she believes in God.

For the corporate media, Election Day and Election Night are all about money – specifically a race to “call” election results. Who will be first to announce a winner as the votes are tallied? In an industry that has been paring down news budgets year after year to the point that little serious reporting gets done, vast sums are spent having people stationed at polling places everywhere calling in the tallies as they get read out of the machines.

But why should we care -- particularly when it comes to national races -- when newly elected, or re-elected, members of Congress, and the president, are not actually installed in office until January, more than two months after the voting is over and done with?

There is plenty of time to get it not first, but right, and that would be true even if we were to use paper ballots and count them by hand, as used to be the standard procedure.

Digging Up Truth With a Teaspoon

An Essay In Search of Justice

 
When he ran for president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte was a mini Donald Trump shooting from the hip to excite populist mob support for his presidential candidacy. Once in office, he followed up on his bloodthirsty rhetoric by encouraging a death-squad sweep through the island nation that has so far accounted for over two thousands assassinations or executions, whichever term one likes. Reports describe bodies appearing in the streets every morning with signs attached to them suggesting they were drug addicts or dealers -- gruesome echoes from the late 70s and early 80s in El Salvador. Dubbed Dirty Harry in the tabloids, President Duterte applauds the piling up of corpses and deems his program a success because drug users are turning themselves in in droves, lest they be murdered. They end up jammed into overcrowded hell-holes. Some end up dead anyway.

President Obama at the meeting in Vientiane and President Duterte on a tearPresident Obama at the meeting in Vientiane and President Duterte on a tear

As the “leader of the free world,” President Obama was touring Asia shilling for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. He was eager to “send a clear message that, as a Pacific nation we [the United States] are here to stay.” He planned on visiting Duterte in the Philippines to scold the new leader on his murderous campaign, but he canceled that visit when Duterte gave a saliva-spitting speech in which he called the president “a son of a whore.” Given his small island nation is a client state of the powerful United States, after his insulting speech, the volatile Filipino president reportedly began to suffer painful migraine headaches. President Duterte has called many people “a son of a whore,” including the Pope; and while hijo de puta in Spanish (as spoken in the Philippines) means son of a whore, it’s such a common expression it probably should be translated into English as son of a bitch. A prudent, cool-headed Obama shook off the choice insult. That is, he didn’t respond by calling Mr. Duterte a fish-eating wog or a psychopathic lunatic. Instead, the two men “exchanged pleasantries” at a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Vientiane, Laos. (Since then, a hitman has testified that while Duterte was mayor of Davoa for over 20 years he led a death squad there and even ordered some killings. The female legislator who organized that hearing has been tossed out of the legislature.)

These 9/11 Heroes Fought Against Terrorism a Century Before 2001

Freedom as farce

 
A Pennsylvania State historic marker dedicated to heroes of 9/11 stands near a bend in a road that cuts through rural farm fields sixty miles west of Philadelphia, the city famous for Independence Hall and other fabled sites associated with the birth of the United States.

This marker does not honor the persons killed in the crash of Flight 93 on September 11, 2001 near Shanksville, Pa, a small community about 180-miles west of the small community where this marker stands.

However, this marker does recognize heroes who battled terrorism, albeit the persistently denied yet deadly domestic terrorism that predates America’s “War on Terror” launched in the wake of the September 2001 attacks.

This marker commemorates the Christiana Riot – a deadly clash at a farmhouse where a Maryland slave owner died during an armed skirmish with African-Americans who lived in the small Lancaster County village of Christiana.
Christiana Riot historic marker.  LBW PhotoChristiana Riot historic marker. LBW Photo
 
The slave owner came to Christiana to reclaim his ‘property’ – three of the four black men who escaped from that slave owner two years before the clash. African-Americans blocked this attempted re-enslavement effort.

Monsanto and the EPA -- How are they doing?

 
Monsanto is walking
With his best friend-with-benefits, the EPA:
So why are you dragging your heels
Signing off on glyphosate?

EPA: Oh, we’re having such a nice walk,
Do you really want to ask me that?
I thought we were going to have a nice time.
Why don’t you just say how pretty my hair looks.
I had it done for you.

Monsanto: Please don’t change the subject.
I’m serious. I have huge plans and
You are holding things up.
We should be better at this game by now.

EPA: Listen to you.
You seem to have forgotten I am an “environmental” agency.
You know I love you
But the public believes in me.
P is for “protection”
(snort-laugh).
Monsanto: Right.
But can’t you just wind things up
And rubber-stamp this one?

EPA: Things are changing, love.
Look around.
Appearances are everything these days.
The best I can do is stall.
You are killing off your customers, you know.

Monsanto: I’m giving them what they want
And they want results sweetheart.
Like a cowboy roping a steer,
Or a football player making the touchdown.
You’re not even listening to me!

EPA: Once people hear the word “carcinogenic”,
As in “Roundup is carcinogenic”. . .
They turn green.
I’ve got an idea.
Just add some vinegar to the formula
And call it something with “green” in it:
Call it “Round-up Green”.

Monsanto: Are you breaking up with me?
EPA looks hard into Monsanto’s eyes,
Leans in and kisses him long on the lips.
They continue, hand in hand.
 
 
--Gary Lindorff

Federal Judge finds 8th Amendment Violation in Pennsylvania’s Refusal to Treat Mumia’s Hep-C

A win and a loss, at least for the time being

 

Depending on how you look at it, lawyers for Mumia Abu-Jamal, the Philadelphia journalist and political prisoner serving a life sentence in a Pennsylvania prison after a controverial 1982 conviction for killing a white Philadelphia police officer, won a huge victory, lost big or maybe won and will win again soon.

His victory, a finding issued on Sept. 1 in Scranton, PA by Federal District Judge Robert Mariani that the state’s Department of Corrections “protocol” for treatment -- actually for non-treatment -- of inmates with deadly Hepatitis C cases, violates the US Constitution’s Eighth Amendment against cruel and unusual punishment, if upheld on appeal at the Appellate Court level, could open the door for thousands of the state’s inmates with Hep-C to receive the latest highly effective but extremely costly medicines that could eradicate the virus from their bodies. It could also serve as a powerful precedent to win such treatment for the tens of thousands of infected inmates in the sprawling web of other local, state and federal prisons across the entire US who are currently being denied care for what has been called a prison epidemic of Hepatitis C.

Abu-Jamal’s loss, on a minor and correctable technicality, means that his own raging Hep-C infection, first discovered over a year ago, will continue to go untreated with those medications, meaning his liver will continue to suffer further irreversible damage from the disease -- damage that could, if allowed to continue untreated, amount to an extrajudicial execution despite his having already had his original death sentence overturned as unconstitutional.

Bret Grote, legal director of the Abolitionist Law Center, an anti-death penalty organization, filed the lawsuit on Abu-Jamal’s behalf in August 2015 seeking a preliminary injunction to force the DOC to provide life-saving new anti-viral drugs to him to treat and cure the Hep-C wracking his body. He says that the reason the judge gave for denying that request was that the suit had not properly named the individuals in the Department of Corrections responsible for determining whether a prisoner would or would not receive treatment.

Mumia in 2013 and in 2015, showing the ravages of the Hep-C infection he contracted in the interimMumia in 2013 and in 2015, showing the ravages of the Hep-C infection he contracted in the interim
 

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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.

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