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The Bloody Gun

New poem by TCBH!'s resident poet

 

The soldier was tired of his bloody gun.
He saw a young stranger
And handed him the gun.
Here take this,
The stranger said,
I will take it, but what will I do with it?
The soldier had walked away.
I will give this gun to the ocean.
He gave the gun to the ocean.
I will take it but what will I do with it?
The stranger had walked away.
I will wash the blood off this gun,
I will give it to the depths.
Ocean gave the gun to the depths.
I will take it but what will I do with it?
The sea had closed its ears.
The depths held the gun for a hundred years.
I will give the gun to time.
Time said, I will take it
But what will I do with it?
The depths had closed its heart.
Time gave the gun to the reef.
I will take it, said the reef
But what will I do with it?
Time had passed on.
The reef held the gun for a thousand years
And then a thousand more.
Now the gun said,
I am tired of being a gun,
But what will I do with myself?
I will give myself to peace.
Peace said to the gun, I will take you.
I know what to do with you.
Peace held the gun tenderly,
Tenderly, tenderly,
Because the world had finally changed.
 
 
    --Gary Lindorff

We Need a Mass Movement to Save and Expand Social Security and Medicare

Old, young, men and women of all races fighting together

 

The latest report of the Social Security Administration trustees is out, and as usual they are issuing dire warnings that the Social Security system is heading for the rocks. The Trust Fund — extra money deliberately collected from workers and employers since 1983 to build up a surplus so as to fund the cost of benefit checks to the wave of Baby Boomers who began retiring in 2011 — will “run out” in 2034, they warn, explaining that unless something is done before then by Congress to bolster the program’s funding, everyone for years would have to take a 21% cut in benefits.

Note that the program is not “going bankrupt,” as hyperventilating talking heads on Fox and right-wing radio will claim. In fact, with no change in taxes or income sources Social Security would still continue to provide retiree and disability benefits at that reduced rate indefinitely from that point on just based on the funds paid into the fund by current workers at that point (which is how the program was intended to work from the time it was established in 1936).

The real point though, is that even today, in 2018, the threat of a benefit cut is still 16 years or almost a generation off.

It’s not a demographic crisis. It’s a crisis of Congressional corruption, deceit and spinelessness. For 20 years Congress has known this would happen, thanks to the increasing longevity of retirees and declining birthrates. If Congress had taken steps to increase funding for the system 20 or 10 or even five years ago, they’d have been minor. Now they’ll have to be more dramatic.

Social Security has never been a pension or annuity; retiree benefits have always been funded by current workers' FICA taxesSocial Security has never been a pension or annuity; retiree benefits have always been funded by current workers' FICA taxes
 

I’m trying to think of any other problem facing the US which is 16 years away that creates such hysteria on the right, and that causes such dysfunction in Congress.

For example, we know that most of the east coast of the United States as well as the Gulf Coast, will see sea levels about six inches higher by 2034. In fact, the Mid-Atlantic states will see even worse sea level rise because the land there is still sinking quite rapidly as an after effect of the melting of the Ice Age glacier which reached down across Canada as far as New York City and Philadelphia (that mile of ice depressed the earth under it which then bulged up toe the south in Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and North Carolina, which are now in a process of sinking back down to their natural level).

Welcome to Police-State America, Weary Traveler

How to make the tourists feel unwelcome, and citizens sick

 

My wife Joyce and I came home last week from a three-week trip to Manila in the Philippines, and to Hong Kong and Beijing in China.

Even though Philippines President Rodrigo Dutarte has an ongoing program of murdering drug dealers on the streets, and China has a penchant for locking up critics of the regime -- even Nobel Laureates -- and beating up and arresting journalists, there was only one place on that jaunt where I personally felt like I was entering a police state at the immigration checkpoint: the USA.

At the Manila airport, the woman checking our passports was polite and friendly... and unarmed. She examined our passports matching the photos to our faces, stamped them, asked how long we were staying and returned them to us, wishing us a good stay.

In Hong Kong the process was typically swift and efficient, even when the officer, also unarmed, asked about Joyce's work visa, which had an eight-day expiration (she was performing a harpsichord concert for a fee at the government radio station RTHK).

At the Beijing International Airport, where we were entering a full-blown police state, there were fingerprints and photos taken by an immigration officer who was professional, but friendly enough... and unarmed.

But when we got home and back to US immigration after landing at Newark , the scene was altogether different. Every immigration agent had a sidearm as well as a taser on her or his belt. Signs everywhere said phone, cellphone and computer use while in the interminable lines was barred, and hostile-sounding loudmouthed immigration officers were quick to scold anyone who violated that rule by trying to call some relative or friend waiting in the greeting area or to snap a pic of someone with them in line.

If nothing else there is an enormous amount of waste going on in at US border crossings. The INS, a division of Homeland Security, doesn't need a person trained in policing and weapons tactics to check someone's travel documents. All they need is what most countries have at their entry points: a bunch of polite people skilled at scrutinizing travel documents, and then a few people doing guard duty who maybe should be armed, at least with non-lethal weapons (the notion of officers firing their revolvers in a crowded immigration hall is, let's agree, pretty horrifying!).

Armed US airport passport control officer at work (keeping America safe?)Armed US airport passport control officer at work (keeping America safe?)
 

Guns really don't belong in an airport immigration area at all (in fact, tellingly, when you see them being worn by passport control personnel, it's usually in a police state). I mean, really, think about it. If there is one place that you shouldn't have to worry about someone pulling out a weapon, gun or knife or anything scarier than a nail-clipper, it would be an immigration hall full of people who have already gone through at least one airport security check and who haven't even had a chance yet to get to their checked baggage where they might perhaps have stowed a weapon. We folks in the line waiting to get cleared for entry back into the US-- or if we're in the foreigner line, into the US for the first time -- are surely the most certifiably unarmed bunch of people you'll ever find outside of a Quaker meetinghouse So why all the INS goons with guns at their side scrutinizing our passports to see where we've been and asking what we're doing in the US?

The Trump White House is a Chaotic Clown Car Filled with Bozos Who Think They are Brilliant

Trump the 'master of the deal' has nothing to show

 

It's long been an American conceit that the way you negotiate is to demand a surrender by your opponent, and then you hammer out the terms of that surrender.

It worked great in World War II after the Red Army chewed up Germany's elite army and left the country with the choice of being overrun by the Soviets or surrendering at least part of the country to the US, Britain and France. It worked great in Japan too after the US, with a temporary monopoly on an unimaginably powerful new weapon, incinerated two of the country's cities and threatened to keep on doing so until The emperor and his generals gave up or let the Island nation be turned into charcoal.

But the concept didn't work in Vietnam, which drove the US out. It didn't work in Iraq, which is now an client state of Iran, it didn't work in Afghanistan, where the US is still fighting the Taliban 17 years after invading that poorest of countries. Truth to tell, the only time the policy really has worked was against the tiny island nation of Grenada, where the primary resistance to the US armada that assaulted the place was a company of Cuban construction workers working on a new airport. (7000 medals were awarded to US military personnel following that triumphant victory.)

But history doesn't matter for the world's "exceptional nation," and so now we have Trump's key advisors -- the neoconservative nut-job John Bolton, Trump's latest National Security Advisor whose primary asset seems to be hair, not brains or even military experience, and Mike Pompeo, recently shifted from the CIA director post over to Secretary of State, a porcine West Point graduate whose international experience appears to be limited to his having concluded that former President Barack Obama somehow managed to be both an "evil Muslim" and a Commuinist.

This goofy pair, appointed by that wiley deal-maker Trump, have managed to queer the deal on a summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. First to give Kim second thoughts was Bolton who announced that the model for a peace agreement between the two nuclear powers, the US and North Korea, would be Libya, where of course, the US got Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafy to ship off all his nuclear bomb-making equipment to the US, and then orchestrated his overthrow and brutal murder. Bolton has insisted, with no disagreement from his boss, that for starters, North Korea would have to fork over all its nuclear weapons, and destroy all its nuclear weapons-making facilities. Then we can talk, the idea goes.

 Trump (center), Bolton (left) and Pompeo (right)Three White House Bozos: Trump (center), Bolton (left) and Pompeo (right)
 

Kim, of course, no dummy he, especially backed as he is by a treaty with neighboring China which commits China to come to North Korea's aid -- as it did quite decisively only a year after the foundation of the People's Republic of China, remember? -- should North Korea be attacked by the US or any other foreign power, has said no deal. Kim says he is all for denuclearizing the North Korean peninsula (in return for foreign aid and an end to sanctions), but that would include having the US sign an enforceable peace treaty including both China and Russia as guarantors, with the US recognizing his as the legitimate government of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. It would also include the US pulling its forces out of South Korea, where they used to keep hundreds of nuclear weapons, and are in place to stock up on them again at a moment's notice at present.

Israel Crosses a Line as IDF Snipers Murder Unarmed Protesters in the Ghetto of Gaza

And how does his differ from the Nazis and the Warsaw Ghetto?

 

Hong Kong -- Sitting in this peaceful city on the far side of world from the United States can put some things in perspective. For one thing, the local papers, both Chinese-language and the English-language South China Morning Post today featured front-page images of dead Palestinian protesters lying on the ground in Gaza. Accompanying articles focused on the latest day's slaughter of over 50 unarmed Palestinians (later upped to 61, six of them children) and the deliberate maiming, often with high-velocity fragmentation bullets that reportedly shatter bones and tear huge holes in their victims, of another 1000 or more, including children. Meanwhile, the international edition of the New York Timesfor two days following the shootings has yet to carry such a photo, and has yet to feature a leading article about the latest IDF massacre in Gaza. Instead page one featured a piece about the risks to Israel posed by the US opening of an Israeli embassy in the supposedly international city of Jerusalem.

The slaughter of protesters in Gaza was a minor point in that article.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong readers are elsewhere seeing and reading about the true horror of what has been happening in Gaza.

The killers and maimers there are soldiers of the Israeli army, all of them sitting safely on earthen berms themselves behind three rows of security fence inside of Gazan territory that keep the protesting Gazan "inmates" at bay, way too far off to even pose a threat by throwing stones. Yet the IDF snipers still kill and maim, often, as the viral videos below shows, laughing at the results or their target practice.

Video taken by an IDF soldier of a sniper shooting a Palestinian boy to death and then being cheered by his comrades.Video taken by an IDF soldier of a sniper shooting a Palestinian boy to death and then being cheered by his comrades.
 

This one-sided violence is not a case of self-defense, though the Israeli government ludicrously tries to claim that because Palestinians are throwing rocks or attempting to, David like, use slings to toss them further, and are flying burning kites over the border in hopes if igniting Israeli farmers' fields, they pose a serious threat. Nor is it a case of deterrence, as there's no way Gazans can push through the walls confining them and enter Israeli territory. It is purely a case of asserting authority and attempting to cow a captive population -- for Gaza is in reality the world's largest prison camp, a place where food, medicine, fuel and even water are strictly controlled and limited by the prison owner and operator, Israel. Close to two million Gazans cannot leave this ghetto except with Israeli permission or by stealth -- the former a rarity and the latter a deadly project. Recently the IDF even bombed a tunnel that was used to allow a few Gazans to slip into Egypt, and that had also allowed small amounts of scarce goods to be slipped into this hell-hole of Israeli's making.

Welcome to the Apocalypse

BDSM, #MeToo, Torture and the Drumbeat For War

 
In the privacy of intimate relationships, I have engaged in role-playing and other consensual sexual activity.
                  - NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman upon resigning

I’m not going to sit here, with the benefit of hindsight, and judge the very good people who made hard decisions, who were running the agency in very extraordinary circumstances.
                  - Gina Haspel, before the Senate Intelligence Committee
 
Life and politics are getting weirder and weirder. Now we have a powerful political figure -- the New York state attorney general -- who publicly advocated for, and allied with, the #MeToo Movement, who fought for the physical safety of women vis-à-vis men in the criminal justice system, who is, out-of-the-blue, outed by four women who accuse him of choking and beating them. His immediate explanation is that, whatever he did, he was participating in “consensual sexual ... role-playing.”

It’s becoming so weird it’s now trite to say: “You can’t make this stuff up.”

Gina Haspel and Eric Schneiderman in public happy-face modeGina Haspel and Eric Schneiderman in public happy-face mode

Thanks to Mr. Schneiderman’s predicament I learned a new acronym: BDSM, Bondage, Domination, Sado-Masochism. I also learned about the notion of “safe words.” That is, if Mr. Scheiderman is truthful in his claim that he has “never engaged in non-consensual sex” and the four women are truthful in their accusations of being on the receiving end of violent acts they apparently did not accede to, then the issue seems to be a kinky legal, contractual one. Law school Contracts 101. Did the attorney general get a bit over-enthusiastic and break his contractual agreement? Did the woman in question contractually agree to being choked as long as the attorney general agreed to stop when she said her safe word -- or when she gasped, "I can't breathe!" That is, was it play-acting akin to the plot of bestselling female romance novels and movies like 50 Shades of Gray or was it play-acting NYPD bad cop? There are so many questions looming in a bizarre case like this, thanks to the fact such apparently kinky behavior is naturally kept secret.

Open Letter

 
 
This is an open letter
to those whose egg shell chest
cracks
under the pressure
of their breath
breathing down borrowed air
like they aren’t worth
the photosynthesized miracle
of carbon and oxygen
 
This is an open letter
to those whose sense
of “this is who I am”
is up for grabs
at the hands of too many
unsecured moments
and people
fluttering in and out of their lives
like migratory birds
or rainy seasons
 
This is an open letter
to those whose childhood was marked
by the mental health of their parents
whose ability to survive
relied on accommodations
they made to another's mind
like
feeling out a form in the dark,
and learning
how to dance with it
 
This is an open letter
to those whose bridges
never felt sturdy enough
who never learned to take the chance
to walk across
even our most dilapidated
of structures.
 

Mumia Seeks to Show Top State Judge Doubled as Prosecutor and Jurist Reviewing his Appeals

Philly cops get priority courtroom seats

 

Following a brief hearing in Philadelphia yesterday, Court of Common Pleas Judge Leon Tucker, learning that the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office had thus far failed find and turn over, in response to his earlier order, any documents showing a role by former District Attorney Ron Castille regarding the department’s handling of an appeal by then death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal, adjourned the hearing until Aug. 30. The judge acted to give Abu-Jamal’s attorneys time to depose a former DA employee about a still unlocated memo apparently composed by her for then DA Castile concerning Abu-Jamal’s case.

Later, Tracey Kavanagh, the attorney from the DA’s office who represented the DA's office at the hearing, stood outside on the sidewalk outside the Criminal Justice Center amidst a scrum of TV cameras and said, “We haven’t found any evidence so far that Judge Castille played any role as DA in Abu-Jamal’s appeal of his conviction. It was just a run-of-the-mill appeals process.”

If one wanted evidence of how absurd Kavanagh's assertion was — that the appeal of a 1982 murder conviction and death sentence for the slaying of a white police officer by one of the city’s leading African-American journalists, himself police critic and former member of the city’s Black Panther Party, was anything but a prime political concern for District Attorney Castille, whose office had the responsibility of preventing any challenge to sentence — all one had to do was try to get into the courtroom on Monday.

XX

I tried. Some 100 or so supporters of Abu-Jamal had shown up at 7:30 in the morning outside the county courthouse on Filbert St. near City Hall to protest his continued incarceration. They then lined up when doors opened to shuffle their way through security in the court building and then up to the 11th floor to line up again at the entrance to the small courtroom Number 1108. By the time I got there, along with many other journalists and interested parties, we found ourselves unable to get into the courtroom. But a lot of police officers, even those arriving later than us, had no trouble gaining entry.

The sheriff’s deputy standing guard in her flak vest at the courtroom entrance, and another guarding a side entrance to the courtroom, saw to it that plenty of cops in uniform, fully equipped with their sidearms and tasers, were allowed inside to sit in the spectator benches and put pressure on the judge and the attorneys from the DA’s office. When anyone left the courtroom, the sheriff controlling access still barred other citizens waiting in the hallway from replacing them. But if a cop left the courtroom, another would freely enter. Over at the side door, other officers were also occasionally being allowed to enter. Clearly space was being reserved in the courtroom for police at this hearing.

In general, police officers are not supposed to wear their uniforms when they are off duty, although in some cities they are allowed to do so if they are doing some security job where the department has specifically authorized them to wear the uniform. Otherwise no. But here they were — even a burly Highway Patrol motorcycle cop decked out ostentatiously in his knee-high leather boots, motorcycle jacket, and ‘30s-era aerodynamic motorcycle officer’s cap.

So that raises the question of who dispatched these officers to sit in the courtroom and to hang out in the hallway. Philly cops don’t provide court security, a task assigned to Sheriff’s Department. So either the Philly Police Department sent them over and they were there on official duty, collecting paychecks to hang around in the hall or sit in the courtroom looking grim and angry, or they were organized by the Fraternal Order of Police, the police union which, like Ahab pursuing his White Whale, has been dedicated to having Abu-Jamal executed or, since 2011 when his death sentence was finally tossed out on Constitutional grounds, to seeing that he never gets out of jail.

Starbucks & Philadelphia's Bitter Brew of (Police-Sanctioned) Pernicious Prejudice

Cops and coffee shop in hot water

Philadelphia police car outside Starbucks location of infamous 4/12/18 arrest incident. PhotoLBWPhiladelphia police car outside Starbucks location of infamous 4/12/18 arrest incident. PhotoLBW
 

Startling Philadelphia Police Department data related to the Starbucks coffee shop location where the flawed mid-April 2018 arrest of two black men sparked outrage internationally shines an unflattering spotlight on tolerance of racial discrimination within the Starbucks corporation and among police in Philadelphia.

This recently released data coupled with other accounts details a year-plus long pattern of discriminatory conduct by Starbucks personnel that seemingly received tacit backing from middle management at Starbucks and by Philadelphia police.

That now infamous April 12th arrest arose when a white manager at a Starbucks location in Philadelphia’s ritzy Rittenhouse Square neighborhood called police on the two black businessmen two minutes after they entered the coffee shop to await a scheduled meeting with a white businessman who arrived as the pair were placed in handcuffs.

That Starbucks manager, identified in news reports as Holly Hylton, claimed the two businessmen had defiantly rejected her requests to leave the shop because they had not immediately made purchases. One of the pair had asked to use the shop’s bathroom a request rejected by Hylton, who declared bathroom access is limited to paying customers only.

Hylton claimed she was merely enforcing Starbucks corporate policy. However, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson, said it was “completely inappropriate to engage the police” because those two men were not creating a “disturbance.”

That recently released data – Philadelphia police 911 call logs – list 69 police responses to various incidents at that 1801Spruce Street Starbucks location between January 2016 and April 18, 2018. Those incidents ranged from improper operation of the security system to robbery.

What Does ‘Denuclearization’ Mean in the Negotiations for an End to the Korean War?

Ending US occupation of South Korea

Media news reports and commentary as well as political statements coming out of Washington on the surprising blossoming of peace talks between North and South Korea tend to focus on the question of whether North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is really “serious” about eliminating his recently developed nuclear weapons arsenal, or whether he will just try to keep what he has while decrying US military threats to his regime.

Missing in all the verbiage has been any reporting on the long US history of nuclear weapons in South Korea, where the US still, 65 years after the end of fighting on the peninsula, maintains at least three military bases and 28,000 combat-ready troops.

That history includes the US keeping as many as 950 nuclear bombs and a variety of delivery systems — rockets, planes and even howitzers that fire nuclear shells — within miles of the North Korean border.

The US military still calls the shots in South Korea,  even over that country's own militaryThe US military still calls the shots in South Korea, even over that country's own military
 

An excellent 2017 report by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, based upon publicly available Defense Department documents, gives detailed history of the basing of nuclear weapons — strategic and tactical — in South Korea during at least 33 years of the 65 years that the US and North Korea have been officially in a state of war. That report makes it clear that North Korea continues to have a bull’s eye on it for US Trident submarines patrolling the north Pacific, and for nuclear-capable aircraft based on Guam, Okinawa and possibly or potentially in Japan, where the US has a major naval base.

The report states that US nuclear weapons were finally fully removed from South Korea in 1991, on orders from then President George H. W. Bush, but discussions to return them took place on several occasions when tensions rose on the peninsula, including as recently as 2011 during the Obama administration.

In US reporting on the peace negotiations between North and South Korea, and in speculation about whether Kim Jong-un is “serious” about “giving up” his country’s nukes, there is typically a mention that while “denuclearization” for the US means Kim giving up his nukes, the term for Kim and North Korea might mean a demand that the US pull its troops from South Korea and shut its bases there.

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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.

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