With the Execution of Troy Davis, Judge Freesman Joins Rogues' Gallery of Killer Jurists

There is a whole rogues’ gallery of charlatans, cowards, racists and liars involved in the 22-year lynching of Troy Davis, the black man who whose life was summarily terminated by the state of Georgia and by the United States of America last night, but one of them, the horribly ironically named Chatham County Superior Court Judge Penny Freesman, will have a special place of honor in the growing pantheon of criminal jurists who have overseen the execution of innocent men in the course of America’s bloody legal history.

Judge Freesman was the superior court judge who assumed responsibility for Davis’ case at the state level in 2011, signing the new and final execution order despite knowing that seven out of the nine prosecution witnesses used to convict him for the 1989 shooting death of an off-duty white police officer in Savannah had recanted, and then, last night, refusing to lift the execution order, despite pleas to spare his life and grant him a new trial from former FBI Director William Sessions, the Pope, former conservative Republican Georgia Congressman Bob Barr (a former Georgia prosecutor), and over 600,000 people worldwide who sent in petitions.

Freesman now joins the likes of Judge Webster Thayer, who oversaw the politically motivated conviction and execution of anarchists Ferdinando Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti on a trumped-up murder charge, Judge Morris Ritchie, who oversaw the equally politically motivated conviction and execution of Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) labor leader Joe Hill on another trumped-up murder charge, and Judge Irving Kaufman, who oversaw the conviction and execution of Ethel Rosenberg, clearly the victim of a politically motivated and truly sick federal government effort to get her husband Julius to admit to spying for the Russians (whatever the truth may be about whether Julius was a spy, his wife was not guilty of the the crime of treason and did not deserve execution).
Troy Davis and Judge Penny Freesman, a victim and his murderer, linked in history foreverTroy Davis and Judge Penny Freesman, a victim and his murderer, linked in history forever

America is Diseased: Mocking the Dying, Profiting off the Work of Uninsured Artists

The first thing that needs to be said to the heartless boneheads who, at the last Republican presidential debate, cheered at the idea of letting a hypothetical 30-year-old cancer victim who hadn’t bought health insurance die, is that this is no mere hypothetical situation. The second thing that needs to be said is that most such people in real life don’t “refuse to get” health insurance. They either cannot afford it (and their employer doesn’t provide it), or they are rejected by insurers because of pre-existing conditions.

If you are a young person, earning a take-home salary of perhaps $20,000, are trying to raise two kids on your own, and you live in Texas, for example (Medicaid eligibility is set state by state), you would not be eligible for Medicaid coverage. Your two kids would supposedly be eligible, but not you. Meanwhile, if your employer, like most employers who are paying minimum wage, doesn’t offer some kind of group policy, if you were lucky enough not to be rejected for some pre-existing medical condition like diabetes or a heart murmer or something, you’d have to come up with perhaps $3,000 to cover yourself with a plan that would not pay for doctor visits, just major hospital bills. But say you were paying $800 a month for rent, and another $3000 a year to keep some 12-year-old rust-bucket of a vehicle insured and on the road to get you to work and home. That would only leave you $7,000 to feed and clothe your kids and yourself. Would you take $3000 of that to pay for health insurance for yourself and reduce your money for living expenses to $4000 for the year?

Of course not! It would be coming right out of your childrens’ mouths!

All over America, especially these days with one in five of us either out of work or working at some job like the one described above or worse, while looking for a decently paying job, millions of individuals and families are struggling with this desperate problem.
The only exam the uninsured in America can get is a wallet biopsyThe only exam the uninsured in America can count on is a wallet biopsy

Protecting Americans? President Obama's Shameful Silence in the Face of Israel's Murder of a Young American

Among the many shameful and cowardly things that President Barack Obama has and has not done, few can rival his complete unwillingness to express outrage at the Israeli military’s murder of a young American teen executed at close range during the Israeli Defense (sic) Force assault on the Turkish-flagged aid ship the Mavi Marmara in international waters in the Mediterranean Sea back on May 31, 2010.

Furkan Dogan, born in the US to Turkish parents, both legal residents of the U.S., and educated in the US, was a volunteer on the Mavi Marmara, the flag ship in a six boat aid flotilla that tried to sail with humanitarian aid from Turkey to the Israeli prison colony known as Gaza only to be stormed and captured and pirated to Israel.

When IDF forces boarded the ship from helicopters and speed boats they shot and killed nine people, one of them young Dogan.

When the assault occurred, there was no protest from the White House, even though an American citizen had been killed. (There was little reporting on the murder either in the U.S. corporate media, which consistently referred to him as Turkish-American–a designation usually reserved for immigrants–despite his being native born in the U.S.).

Nor was there any protest from the White House when the Turkish Council of Forensic Medicine reported a month later that the autopsy conducted on Dogan showed that, like most of the other eight IDF victims, he had been shot in the back and in the back of the head, as well as in the face — hardly the kind of killing that would have resulted had he and the others — as the Israeli government claimed, been “attacking” the IDF boarders. (In fact a smuggled video shows two IDF officers brutally kicking a person identified by the filmer as Dogan while he is lying on the deck of the ship, and then shooting him repeatedly with their weapons, which my colleague Linn Washington says appear to be pump-action Remington 870 shotguns — a deadly gun popular around the world and among police for “riot control” actions. The weapon is part of the IDF arsenal.)

A UN High Commissioner for Human Rights who investigated the IDF assault on the Mavi Marmara concluded that Dogan, far from “assaulting” IDF forces, had been trying to video-tape their slaughter of others when he was attacked and slain.

As for President Obama, who is forever echoing his predecessor George W. Bush about his important job of “protecting Americans”?
Furkan Dogan, American teen murdered by Israeli troops, ignored by President Obama and the US governmentFurkan Dogan, American teen murdered by Israeli troops, ignored by President Obama and the US government

War Spending: The Idea Whose Name Cannot be Mentioned at The Times

When you are the New York Times, or in this case, one of the only real liberal columnists working for the Times anymore, there are apparently some things you just cannot mention.

How else to explain how a seemingly intelligent economist like Paul Krugman can scorch the Republicans in Congress and President Obama in a Labor Day column for failing to deal with the crisis of joblessness and deepening economic collapse in the U.S., but never once mention the endless and pointless wars into which the country is pouring hundreds of billions of dollars a year?

Here’s Krugman:

“I don’t mean to dismiss concerns about the long-run U.S. budget picture. If you look at fiscal prospects over, say, the next 20 years, they are indeed deeply worrying, largely because of rising healthcare costs. But the experience of the past two years has overwhelmingly confirmed what some of us tried to argue from the beginning: The deficits we’re running right now–deficits we should be running, because deficit spending helps support a depressed economy — are no threat at all.”

What planet is Prof. Krugman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, living on?

The U.S. has over the past decade spent some two trillion dollars on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and on the so-called “War” on Terror. The actual spending has been much higher (as the honest Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz has explained), because only about 50% of the U.S. budget each year, including expenditures for “intelligence” and the military, is covered by tax collections from individuals, corporations, import duties and other federal fees and collections. The rest is financed with borrowed money, all of which has to be repaid in later years with interest. This country has spent another $5 trillion or so on the bloated military budget over the last decade, to finance a military complex that costs as much as the rest of the world combined spends on war and preparing for war. And again, only half of that amount was actual tax revenues. The rest has to be paid back over coming years with interest, because it’s all been borrowed.

Hey Krugman! Why don’t you tell people the real reason why the U.S. has a “deeply worrying” fiscal problem looming over the next couple of decades? Isn’t it really because we’ve got to pay for all these wars and all the militarism that we’ve been buying on credit? Be honest. It’s not future health care spending that’s the problem. It’s current and future military spending.
Spending on war and military power does little for the economy in the short term and devastates economies over the long term.Spending on war and military power does little for the economy in the short term and it devastates economies over the long term.

Nothing to Celebrate: This Labor Day, Don't Party, Organize and Raise Hell!

This faux “workers’ holiday” on Monday is not a day for celebrating for American workers.

The official unemployment rate, just released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, showed unemployment in July to be 9.1%, which is exactly the same as the rate was in June, and which is an increase from the months in the spring. But that’s not even the real picture.

Worse than the official number of unemployed is the BLS’s official number of unemployed together with those who are part-time employed, usually in marginal low-paid jobs, but who want to work full-time. That figure hit 16.2% in July. Things are likely to get worse, though, because the BLS also reported at the same time that in August, no net new jobs were added in the U.S. — the first time the new jobs figure was zero since 1945.

But even that is only part of the story of the miserable economic situation facing American workers. The BLS doesn’t even count people who have stopped trying to find a job because they’ve tried for so long unsuccessfully that they have realized the effort is pointless. Many of these are people who are now staying home, perhaps helping to raise children. Many others have decided to retire earlier than planned (and earlier than they can afford to). Adding these people to the mix raises the unemployed rate to 17.7%

The Gallup polling organization, which uses a different methodology to count the unemployed, found the total of unemployed and under-employed in August to be 9.1 and 9.4 percent respectively, or a total of 18.5%. That is up 0.5% from 18.0 percent in Gallup’s July survey.

All of these numbers still don’t tell the real story, though, but a little math can help.
Being jobless is no picnic and Labor Day shouldn't be eitherBeing jobless is no picnic and Labor Day shouldn't be either

Alternative Media, Then and Now and Tomorrow

 
Some 35 years ago, when I was just an aspiring journalist settling into life In Los Angeles, a venerable alternative journal, the Free Press, died. This paper, which had chronicled the Beat Era, the Civil Rights Movement, and the rise of the ’60s Counter Culture, much like the Village Voice in New York City on the opposite coast, didn’t stop publishing. Rather, the new owner decided that the real money was in massage parlor ads and ads for sex services, and so he eliminated the journalism in favor of pornography.

At the time, I had been freelancing, doing pieces for the “Freep’s” managing editor, Tom Thompson, a hulking former linebacker and veteran TV news reporter with a growl for a voice who ate too much, smoked too much and had an unerring sense for what was really important and needed covering.

When the Freep ceased to be a newspaper, Tom quit. But instead of going off to find another job in some forsaken corner of the corporate media, he did something unusual. He called a meeting at his house of the journalists he had been working with, myself included. Sitting around his living room, a dozen or so of us talked about the crazy idea of starting a new alternative newspaper for Los Angeles. We wanted a weekly. We wanted it to be something people paid for, even if it was just a quarter. And we wanted it to be ours, not some publisher’s property, in which we were just the cogs.

We found a backer, a liberal Democratic activist named Jim Horowitz, who ran a small plumbing supply wholesale operation. Jim, incredibly and generously, if with understandable skepticism, agreed to our terms: 50% ownership in return for his fronting of $50,000, and 50% ownership for those of us who agreed to work for $125 a week to put out the paper, which we decided to call the Los Angeles Vanguard.

This coming week, two of the original journalists from that venture, myself and Ron Ridenour, will gather together with the members of the journalists’ collective that runs this online paper–myself, John Grant and Charles M. Young (Linn Washington will be out of town)–to celebrate and critique what was done in Los Angeles half a lifetime ago, and and what we have done with ThisCantBeHappening! over the 14 months of this new publication’s existence. We will be hosting a forum titled “The LA Vanguard, ThisCantBeHappening! and the Future of Alternative Journalism” this coming Thursday, August 18, at 7 pm at Larry Robin’s Moonstone Arts Center, 110A S. 13th Street in Philadelphia. (Everyone is welcome, and refreshments will be available.)
 Young, Ridenour, Lindorff, Grant, Washington, Thompson and PleasantsLA Vanguard and TCBH! staffs: Young, Ridenour, Lindorff, Grant, Washington, Thompson and Pleasants

Punishments Don't Fit the Crime: In Pennsylvania, It Costs $2 for 'Access to Justice,' (But You Still Might Not Get It)

 
There is a basic concept when it comes to justice that the punishment should fit the crime. It’s a concept that in Law-and-Order America has long vanished. Some states, like California, have done this with brutish “Three-Strikes-You’re-Out” policies that have ended up sentencing young men to life in prison for something like stealing a video, because it was the perpetrator’s third crime. Others, like Florida, have done it by sentencing a pre-teen kid to life in prison for a killing because he was tried as an adult.

The mentality that does these things also operates at a lower level, before sentencing, and involves police who over-react, and over-charge people for minor violations. I was talking to a black man recently who spent four years in prison in Pennsylvania for throwing a brick through a window. “I was drunk,” he says, “and so I tossed the brick, which was stupid, but the police called that a burglary attempt, and so I got four years.”

My own experience with this mentality came with two traffic tickets involving my son. They might seem minor in comparison, but they still speak to this mentality.

The first happened earlier this year in my suburban community of Upper Dublin, PA. Jed and I were in the car early in the morning, headed for an appointment in Philadelphia. Jed, only 17, was driving for the first time in early morning and had never had the experience of driving past a school during the “flashing school zone” period, when cars had to go 15 miles per hour. A careful driver, he was obeying the law meticulously as we passed the town’s high school and elementary school. Then, just past the elementary school, at the intersection where we had to turn to go a few hundred feet to the entrance to a divided highway, Jed made the turn and began accelerating towards the ramp entrance.

I immediately spotted a black unmarked police car parked deceptively on the side of the road, but before I could even tell Jed to slow down, it took off behind us, lights flashing.

Busted!
Jed LindorffJed Lindorff

America's Big Speed-Up: No Wonder the Jobless Rate is Staying at Depression Levels

My wife Joyce and I were renting a car for the week this morning at a Hertz office just outside Philadelphia. There was a line of people either waiting to pick up a vehicle, or to return one.

The harried clerk behind the counter — the only guy in the office — was fielding calls while trying to serve the first guy in line, who was trying to rent a car for a vacation trip with his wife to North Carolina’s Outer Banks. No sooner would the poor clerk sit down at the computer to start typing in the information from the man’s driver’s license than the phone would ring — a phone that was located on a desk in a cubicle behind him, requiring him to get up and run around to the back cubicle.

The man at the counter, and others in the line, sighed audibly.

The clerk rolled his eyes in apology as he explained to the caller that he was backed up in the office, and would have to call her back. There was a pause, and he said into the phone calmly, “Within the hour. I promise.”

Then he came back to the counter, apologizing. The phone rang again. He ran back to the phone and fielded this second call, again saying he’d have to call the person back.

The man at the counter, likely a college professor judging by his baseball cap, which had embossed on the side “Penn Relays Official,” observed to no one in particular, “Here it is: the New American Economy.”

I said, “You got that right!”

Later, after four people had been taken care of and it was our turn, as we were inspecting the vehicle for dents and scratches before signing off on the rental, I asked the guy why the office was so short-staffed. “They cut us back to one person on Saturdays,” he said. “But there’s way too much work for one person.” (He had just had to leave four people in line in the office to run out across the parking lot, wearing his crisp office uniform, with its long pants, in 90-degree heat, to retrieve a sun-roasted black car for us and bring it to the front of the office.)

I asked him if he had some wall that he could beat his fist against when he got home. “I go straight to the gym after work,” he said with a wry laugh.

This incident happened on the same day that the local paper, the Philadlephia Inquirer, reported on its front page that Merck, the pharmaceutical giant, is planning to lay off 13,000 of its employees over the next four years.
US Companies aren't hiring, they're making existing workers work harderUS Companies aren't hiring, they're making existing workers work harder

Doing the Wrong Thing in DC: Moody's Economist Warns of Increasing Double-Dip Recession Risk

The chief economist at ratings agency Moodys is warning that the U.S. could be headed for a renewed recession.

Calling the current situation “very perilous,” John Lonski adds that the politicians in Washington, where both parties are vying to present budgets featuring massive cuts in spending, could help bring on that recession–just as the new Conservative Party-led government in Great Britain brought on a return to recession this year through its aggressive cutting of public spending. Worse yet, they could create a new shut-down in credit or “liquidity” in the financial industry that “could be more serious even than what caused the collapse of Lehman Brothers” in 2008.

Lonski, in an interview with ThisCantBeHappening!, said, “What scares me is that, because of the weakened condition of the federal government, there is less confidence in the philosophy of `too big to fail’– the idea that the government will come in and back up any financial company that runs into trouble.” He said the government is probably no longer in a position to make trillions of dollars available to prop up failing big banks as it did in 2008 and 2009, and that fearing this, financial institutions may pull back, drying up lending.

Lonski and his colleague Ben Garber, another economist at Moody’s Capital Markets Research Group, today released a new report titled “Double Dip Risk Rises as DC Standoff Continues,” in which they warn that the U.S. “may be closer to a double dip recession than commonly thought.”

The two men note that the US economy “continues to soften,” and say that evidence is “proving elusive” of any recovery in the second half of of this year. And that’s “assuming a reasonable resolution of the debt standoff” between Republicans and Democrats in Washington, and increasingly even among Republicans themselves.

“Even with a market-friendly resolution of the debt standoff,” they write, “a double-dip recession is far from unlikely.”
The Economy (left) is heading south, while joblessness (right) continues to to riseThe Economy (left) is heading south, while joblessness (right) continues to to rise

To Hell with the Democrats!: Time to for Any Real Progressives in Congress to Bolt the Party and Start a New One

Glenn Greenwald has just written that President Obama, by playing a leading role in pushing for cuts in Social Security benefits as part of the whole kabuki-theater drama over the debt ceiling, and the alleged crisis of America’s national debt, has cut out the “soul” of the Democratic Party.

Let’s start by saying that if the Democratic Party ever had a soul, it was sold long ago to the Evil Ones who run corporate America, and especially the horned legions on Wall Street. But the point Greenwald makes is a good one: Obama and his backers in the Democratic Party in Congress — the power brokers like Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, and the sell-outs like Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Mark Warner (D-VA), who are the Democratic half of the so-called Gang of Six currently putting forward a proposal to raise working class taxes while cutting taxes for the rich, and to slash $3 trillion from programs that are critically important for the poor and the sick — have abandoned any commitment they and the party might once have had to working class America and to the poor and have gone over completely to a strategy of trying to compete with Republicans in currying the favor of the rich and the powerful.

There is at this point only one thing to do, and it’s not to encourage some liberal figure to run a quixotic primary campaign against Obama for the 2012 Democratic Presidential campaign. Nor is it to write a letter to the President vowing not to vote for any reduction in Social Security Benefits, as 61 House members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus did late this week.

It is to move forward with a strategy to develop a fully-competitive progressive Third Party to run races in every Congressional district and for every Senate seat up for grabs in 2012, and to run a serious candidate for President.

________________________

Exhibit 1: The sad state of alternative media:

This article was submitted to both Truth Out and Common Dreams for publication on their sites, which have been filled with articles criticizing President Obama’s sellout of traditional Democratic Party principles supporting Social Security and Medicare. Neither site has been willing to run this story. Common Dreams has gone further, actually pulling a letter I wrote in the comment section of a Sunday CD piece by Jeff Cohen which was calling for Bernie Sanders to run in the Democratic Primary against Obama. My letter made the point that running in a primary against Obama would only lead Obama to again lie about his being a progressive, only to ignore any promises he might make should he be re-elected. In the letter, I linked to this article, and mentioned that CD had chosen not to run it. Apparently, at Common Dreams, letters criticizing CD editorial decisions are not allowed, yet this is exactly one of the criticisms we on the left have been leveling at the NY Times and other corporate media for years. So how different then is Common Dreams from the MSM? How different is Truthout for that matter, if it cannot run pieces that are outside of its own political viewpoint? Another reason why readers of this particular online newspaper should be sending us financial support.
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