Righting an Ugly Wrong: Compassion or Just Crass Political Calculation?

An outrageous assertion by a potential presidential candidate who praised a group which had notoriously and openly supported racial segregation played a role in finally righting one of the most grotesque wrongs anywhere in America’s justice system with the freeing of two sisters serving controversial double-life sentences for an $11 robbery they did not commit.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour recently announced suspending the troubling prison sentences of Gladys and Jamie Scott primarily on the humanitarian grounds that older sister Jamie needs a kidney transplant.

Back in 1994, a Mississippi jury convicted the Scott sisters for a Christmas Eve robbery the preceding year. The Scotts, according to police and prosecutors, had lured two men into an ambush where three teens robbed the victims of what records indicate was $11 in cash.

Despite their having no criminal record and no direct involvement in the actual robbery, according to testimony, the Scott sisters received a double-life sentence each for what the prosecutor said was their roles in organizing the robbery.

Though seldom used, Mississippi law permits life sentences for robbery.

Prison Populism? Tea Party Populists Keep the Races Divided for the Benefit of the Rich

The prospect of broadcast agitator Glen Beck recommending that his audience read a book with ‘Black Power’ in the title might seem less likely than President Obama standing up to the right-wing onslaught he faces daily.

Yet, just as America needs a President Obama who doesn’t castigate critics in his base while constantly caving into his GOP bashers, Beck’s audience needs insights from the historic facts contained in one passage of the 1967 book “Black Power: The Politics of Liberation in America.”

That single passage could show many among Beck’s audience that they’ve been ‘played.’ That’s urban parlance for deceived…or what, in the Wild West, would have been called hornswoggled.

That passage in question refers to the early 1890s, when severe recession and racial animus roiled America – a nation then as now steeped in extraordinary disparities in income between the financial elites and regular folks of all races.

Some of those in the early 1890s who were wading through the waters of economic deprivation did the unthinkable for that era: they looked beyond skin color to see a class interest among those of all races being similarly exploited by big-money interests.

First in the Hearts of his Countrymen? Bringing George Washington's Philadelphia Slave History to Light

Philadelphia–When historians started digging into the facts about the first “White House,” where President George Washington lived when Philadelphia was the nation’s capital, they dredged up more than just mundane data.

They also dredged up the seamy saga of the first president’s slave legacy here in the “Cradle of Liberty,” where the hero of America’s Revolution brought nine of his house slaves, only to see them embarrass him by trying desperately to escape from bondage.

At high noon on December 15, 2010, hundreds of people, including Philadelphia’s Mayor Michael Nutter and other dignitaries, brushed off bone-chilling cold to participate in a controversial yet truly historic event – the grand opening the first monument to slavery ever erected on federal property.

That monument is among the elements in the eclectic mix of items comprising a new exhibit at Philadelphia’s storied Independence National Historic Park that honors the mansion where America’s first two presidents – George Washington and John Adams – lived while in office.

Philadelphia served as the capital of the United States from December 1790 until May 1800.
That multi-media exhibit, entitled “The President’s House: Freedom and Slavery in the Making of a New Nation,” is the result of an eight-year battle over how best to both commemorate the nation’s first White House while recognizing the role of slavery inside that house and the nation as a whole.
Washington's Philadelphia slaves memorialized on Independence Mall (photo by Linn Washington)Washington's Philadelphia slaves memorialized on Independence Mall (photo by Linn Washington)

America Criticized For Human Rights Abuses

Given the sensationalism in mainstream US news media coverage of alleged sexual impropriety charges filed against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in Sweden, it’s no surprise that other significant news about America involving that Scandinavian nation is being left uncovered.

In early November, Sweden called on the US to end the death penalty and to improve conditions in maximum security prisons, as the United States went through its first-ever Universal Periodic Review by the United Nation’s Human Rights Council.
US condemned for its continued use of capital punishmentUS condemned for its continued use of capital punishment

Sweden joined nearly two dozen countries in calling upon the US to end its pariah-like status as the only western industrialized nation to engage in executions. The US has over 3,200 people facing death sentences, a sharp rise from 1968, when America’s death row population numbered just 517, according to statistics compiled by the Death Penalty Information Center.

Other countries critical of the US posture on the death penalty – practiced by the federal government and 35 states – included Australia (the birthplace of Assange), France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the Vatican.

The caustic onslaught in the U.S. against Assange for leaking sensitive documents, where attackers include members of Congress – some even calling for Assange’s death, either extrajudicially or after a trial–is ironic, coming so close to December 10th, the annual international observance of Human Rights Day.

An Epidemic of Brutality: Oakland Filmmaker Feels Police Wrath

Hours after San Francisco Bay Area radio show host J.R. Valrey screened his documentary film about police brutality at a university in Philadelphia daily newspapers in that city carried articles about two separate lawsuits filed against Philly police alleging brutality.

Those lawsuits, filed respectively by a state legislator and a high-profile media commentator (both of whom are black) didn’t surprise Valrey. His travels across America screening his film highlighted for him – again – a reality that governmental officials constantly reject: police brutality is a widespread scourge.

“Police brutality is definitely not ‘isolated incidents’ as officials always say after each new killing or beating by police,” said Valrey, host of the Block Report, a program aired on KPFA-FM, the Pacifica station in the Bay Area.

New Report: Racism Still Pollutes Tea Party Ranks

Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann (R-MN), head of the Tea Party Caucus in Congress, constantly dismisses charges about racism roiling within the ranks of the Tea Party, despite her fingerprints frequently appearing on racism-tinged stink bombs.

For example, Tea Party starlet Bachmann denies charges that racism is embedded in her demand made during a September Capitol Hill press conference for halting the long delayed $1.2-billion court-approved settlement to black farmers for documented discrimination by the US Agriculture Department.

Bachmann called for holding up that settlement, already stalled by US Senate Republicans, until a federal investigation examines her poorly substantiated claim of “massive and widespread fraud” in that pending settlement.

Bachmann’s name appears a few times in “Tea Party Nationalism,” the extensive report released recently examining Tea Party activities around America that documents the leadership roles of individuals in the tea-bag movement who also hold leadership posts in fringe organizations including anti-immigrant, pro-Nazi and white supremacist groups.

Deception and Devastation: The Ignored Dark-Sides of Suffering Joblessness

Two of my oldest and dearest friends in life are unemployed and suffering – facing full-blown collapse monetarily and mentally.

Both have graduate degrees, multiple skills, commendable work records and zero job search success despite diligently scouring every source available during the past two years.

Oh, another important factor in the equation of my friends’ exile from employment ranks. Both friends are over fifty, a seeming Bestial Mark during this era when brazen age discrimination trumps traditional discrimination based on race, gender and disability.

Amplifying the anguish my friends harbor already from feeling their joblessness is somehow their fault are increasing reports that employers are refusing to hire unemployed people, citing their jobless status as evidence of their worthlessness as employees.

There may be job fairs, but there are no jobs. Is that fair?There may be job fairs, but there are no jobs. Is that fair?

Employers, according to recent media reports, manufacture myths about the jobless, such as the jobless are unemployed due to poor work performance or that the currently employed are more current in needed proficiencies.

One friend’s downsizing had nothing to do with poor performance and that friend avoided layoff-induced “obsolescence” by returning to college and taking training for additional skills.

Corporate Charters Get the Cash: Philadelphia Charter School Battle Casts Nationwide Shadow

Nationally noted activist/educator Dr. Walter D. Palmer, founder of an innovative charter school in Philadelphia, is in a historic battle with Philadelphia School District officials which could impact charters across Pennsylvania as well as the current debates nationwide over reforming public education.

At issue is the failure of Philadelphia district officials to provide $1.7-million in funds for the high school at Palmer’s charter–money that he says prior school district officials approved but never delivered.

District officials counter that the Walter D. Palmer Leadership Learning Charter School, before launching its high school, never obtained formal approval from the School Reform Commission. As a consequence, they claim the school district owes the school nothing.

The SRC is a state government created and controlled entity that oversees public schools in Philadelphia including the 74 charters operating in that city.

If Palmer looses this battle, now being fought out in Pennsylvania’s appellate Commonwealth Court, it could bankrupt the school he opened in 2000, shuttering the impressive multi-million new building opened a few years ago in an impoverished section of North Philadelphia.

A win for the Palmer School enables charter schools in Philadelphia and statewide to increase enrollments.

American Justice on Trial: Gratuitous Police Violence, False Testimony by Police, and a Rush to Bad Judgment

Hours after police in a Philadelphia suburb proudly paraded Kenneth Woods, 21, in front of the news media as the man responsible for killing a college student during a hi-speed crash while allegedly fleeing police in a stolen SUV, the cops backpedalled, admitting they arrested the wrong man.

Shortly after Woods’ arraignment on vehicular homicide and third-degree murder charges, the real culprit – Donny Sayers – telephoned police, reportedly confessing to his crimes and clearing Woods of any involvement.

That confession imploded a case against Woods that police had previous proclaimed was rock-solid, resting, they claimed, on fingerprint evidence, a cell phone photo and supposedly positive identification by the policeman who had pursued the SUV immediately before the fatal crash. (The driver of the stolen vehicle had fled on foot after the collusion and escaped pursuing police.)

Yet, when law enforcement authorities in Delaware County staged a press conference hours after Sayers’ surprise confession, they refused to fully accept responsibility for erring in so quickly fingering Woods, who was roughly body-slammed during his arrest despite his offering no resistance.

Insider Analysis: Predictions of Democatic Defeat Premature

Incessant news media reports about Republicans retaking Capitol Hill by routing Democrats in the November general election are inaccurate according to the third highest ranking Democrat in Congress, himself a former newspaper publisher.

House Majority Whip James Clyburn concedes Democrats will lose some seats on Capitol Hill but predicts Democrats will both retain and gain enough seats to maintain their majorities in the House and the Senate.

“When you go district by district instead of using a broad Inside-the-Beltway analysis you see Democrats faring well,” said Rep Clyburn during a Monday September 20th meeting with the Editorial Board of The Philadelphia Tribune newspaper.

Three days later, Clyburn, upon emerging from an election campaign strategy meeting at the White House, said Democrats could lose as many as twenty seats in the House but will maintain control with a 234-211 seat margin over Republicans.

For months, predictions from press pundits and pollsters have painted a picture of Republicans snatching control of Capitol Hill by trouncing Democrats in November.

Rep. James ClyburnRep. James Clyburn

Where many analysts see a political tsunami washing away Democrats, the political tea leaves read by Clyburn and others point to a different outcome.