3rd Circuit Appeal Ruling Favoring Abu-Jamal Smacks Down US Supreme Court

The federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, in a stunning smack at the U.S. Supreme Court, has issued a ruling upholding its earlier decision backing a new sentencing hearing in the controversial case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, the convicted killer of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner.

The latest ruling, issued on Tuesday April 26, 2011, upholds a ruling the Third Circuit issued over two years ago siding with a federal district court judge who, back in 2001, had set aside Abu-Jamal’s death penalty after determining that death penalty instructions provided to the jury, and a flawed jury ballot document used during Abu-Jamal’s 1982 trial, had been unclear.

The U.S. Supreme Court had ordered the Third Circuit to re-examine its 2009 ruling upholding the lifting of Abu-Jamal’s death sentence.

The nation’s top court had cited a new legal precedent in that directive to the Third Circuit, a strange order given the fact that the Supreme Court had earlier consistently declined to apply its own precedents to Abu-Jamal’s case.

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said that, honoring a “campaign promise,” he had asked Faulkner’s widow Maureen Faulkner what her wishes were, and in response to her request was appealing the decision back to the US Supreme Court.

Abu-Jamal’s current lead attorney, Prof Judith Ritter of the Widener Law School, said of the decision, “Each of the four federal judges that has reviewed Mr. Abu-Jamal’s case has found his death sentence to be unconstitutional. The Third Circuit’s most recent opinion reflects a detailed analysis demonstrating that their unanimous decision is well-supported by Supreme Court precedent. We believe this carefully reasoned analysis will stand.”
Mumia Abu-JamalMumia Abu-Jamal

War Crimes Charges Anyone?: New Exposé of Big Oil’s Role in the Iraq War

   When it was  suggested the war in Iraq was about oil, Tony Blair,then the British prime minister, had this to say on February 6,2003

     “Let me just deal with the oil thing because… the oil conspiracy theory is honestly one of the most absurd when you analyse it. The fact is that, if the oil that Iraq has were our concern, I mean we could probably cut a deal with Saddam tomorrow in relation to the oil. It’s not the oil that is the issue, it is the weapons…”

  In fact, as I and numerous others, have reported on many occasions before, both during and after the war, oil was a principal if not the principal reason, for going to war. The reason for thinking this comes from any reading of oil history in the Middle East. The  modern industry began in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq), which today probably boasts the largest reserves in the world. Current knowledge of oil and the war in large part comes from  the work of a  researcher in the UK named Greg Muttitt. Among other things, Muttitt has had close contacts with the Iraq oil workers union. Now Muttitt has written a book–released in Britain and India this week, called Fuel on the Fire-–that makes crystal clear  the role of big oil. His research had turned up hundreds of pages of heretofore secret documents and is further backed up by interviews with executives of the international oil companies.
Big Oil had plans for Iraq before the war even startedBig Oil had plans for Iraq before the war even started

Talking Revolution: The New Elderly Generation can Provide the Spark for an American Rising

I am 62 and have just reached the age where I could apply for Social Security retirement benefits. Of course, I’d be crazy to do that and collect some $700 a month for the rest of my life, when I could keep working and wait until I’m 70 and get $2000 a month.

But the point is, I’ve arrived. I’m a “senior.” And now I’m paying a lot more attention to what the Right and its paymaster, the corporate lobby, are trying to do, not just to my retirement plan (which is Social Security. period), but also to Medicare, the program upon which my medical care will depend once my wife decides to retire from her university job.

The picture is not pretty. Both the Republicans, and the pathetic Democrats, led by President Barack Obama, are talking brazenly about cutting back on Social Security, and on Medicare. The Republicans openly say they want to kill Medicare and secretly want to end Social Security too, which is the agenda of most of the corporations which fund lobbies like the US Chamber of Commerce, the National Assn. of Manufacturers, the Business Roundtable, etc. Oh, I know they say they’re only talking about “changes” for people who are under 55, but that’s just for starters. The goal is to ruin the program for younger workers, and then make them resent what we older folks still get. Then the next step will be to eradicate both programs altogether.

But here’s the thing. The reason these parties and lobbies are trying so hard now to use the recession and the national deficit as cover to decimate and destroy these two proven and critically important social programs into which all working Americans have been paying all our working lives, is that they realize what most 50 and 60-something Americans haven’t realized yet: that we are about to become the most powerful political force in the country, and that we are certainly going to demand both an excellent government Medicare program, and a decent retirement program.

Pres. Franklin Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act into lawPres. Franklin Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act into law

The way I see it, we in the Baby Boom generation–those people born between 1946 and about 1964–are just starting to hit retirement age. In another 10 years, we will become a political force twice as powerful and certainly more than twice as noisy and demanding as the current senior lobby. We can either wait until then, after they have successfully gutted the two programs we depend on, making it so we have to fight to recreate or restore them, or we can start organizing now to defend and improve them, and save ourselves a whole lot of trouble.

So here’s my proposal.

Hedging, Delusion and Dishonesty in Afghanistan

“The Americans have not been honest about this, even among themselves.”

That’s how Mullah Attullah Lodin, deputy chairman of the High Peace Council of Afghanistan, sees our nation and its government as it relates to the question of permanent bases in Afghanistan and to his specific portfolio, the establishment of peace in Afghanistan.

Lodin is a former Hizb-e Islami militia commander (they fought the Russians), and he’s now in the Karzai government. Some might suggest he has an agenda, which generally means not being in synch with US policy. Americans don’t have “agendas.” The presumption is Afghans are backward and corrupt and somehow not as worthy of trust as a westerner or an American. And Lodin’s all for talking peace with the Taliban, which makes him radioactive.

Under the reigning myth of American Exceptionalism, whatever Americans do is right and good because they are Americans and — more important — because they have the most lethal weapons on the planet, up to and including the R&D marvel of the Afghanistan War, lethal drone technology.

As the rock anthem says: We are the champions!

Mullah Attullah Lodin, Kabul and the Mad HatterMullah Attullah Lodin, Kabul and the Mad Hatter

Only in America can a man in a flight suit in an air-conditioned room monitor TV screens following unaware people going about their business 10,000 miles away and, on orders from some other air-conditioned room, while sipping a Diet Pepsi turn those distant human beings into exploded pieces of steaming offal and flesh. This man, then, gets in his car and drives home to dinner with his wife and kids.

So far, we have not heard what it’s like in the realm of Post Traumatic Stress to do this kind of lethal, remote “combat” day-in-day-out. At what point does a drone pilot burn out or crack up? Is there a rest and relaxation spa and special counselors for drone pilots who begin to ask moral questions?

An 'Oh Please!' Moment: Is S&P Running Interference for the Right to Help Crush Social Security and Medicare?

Today’sbreathless anxiety-inducing headline was that Standard & Poors, the rating agency, has issued a “negative outlook” warning on US sovereign debt, claiming that the US, in comparison with other countries with a top AAA credit rating, has “very large budget deficits and rising government indebtedness and the path to addressing these is not clear to us”. S&P warned that there was a “a one in three chance that the US could lose its AAA rating in two years because of its mounting debt.”

The ratings firm–one of three global companies that Wall Street relies upon to establish the credit ratings of companies and nations around the world–said its analysts had “little confidence” that the Obama administration and the divided Congress would reach any agreement on a deficit-reduction plan before the next national election in the fall of 2012, and that they doubted that any such plan would be adopted until after 2014, two whole Congressional elections away.

So far, the other two ratings agencies, Moody’s and Fitch Ratings, have not followed suit. Moody’s issued a statement saying, ““Moody’s rating for the US is Aaa and remains stable,” though the company warns that “an upward debt trajectory and increasing fiscal pressures could increase the likelihood of an “outlook change” within “the next two years.”
Private ratings firms have awesome power. Are they  playing political games with it?Private ratings firms have awesome power. Are they playing political games with it?

Meanwhile, Fitch Ratings, which unlike Moody’s and S&P, is based in Europe, took an even more sober stance, saying, “In Fitch’s opinion, the likelihood of the U.S. government failing to honor its financial obligations and in particular make due and full payments on U.S. Treasury securities is extremely low. Ultimately, the recognition of the dire consequences of failing to raise the debt ceiling in a timely manner will prevail over differences on the more fundamental issue of how best to place U.S. public finances on a sustainable path over the medium- to long-term.” Fitch goes on to add, “The brinkmanship over the debt ceiling and the 2011 budget will be resolved…Fitch does expect that the tough choices on tax and spending will be made – as is starting to be seen at the state and local level – that are necessary to place public finances on a sustainable path.” Unlike S&P and Moody’s, Fitch’s analysts note the critical point that “The U.S. ‘AAA’ status is underpinned by the flexibility and dynamism of its economy, as well as the exceptional financing flexibility that derives from the U.S. dollar’s role as the world’s predominant reserve currency.”

Investors took the bad S&P news in stride. US equities markets reacted to the report by dropping by 2%, before recovering a bit, and ending up down 1.2-1.3% for the day. The usually fairly skittish equities markets have fallen farther than that on reports that Gen. Muammar Qaddafy was risking sunburn or a bullet in the head riding around Tripoli in an open jeep, or that Portugal, one of the smallest countries in Europe, was in danger of default.

At least one economist burst out laughing on hearing about the S&P announcement. “They did what?” exclaimed James Galbraith, a professor of economics at the University of Texas in Austin, who formerly served as executive director of the Congressional Joint Economic Committee. “This is remarkable! It certainly will confirm the suspicions of those who have questioned S&P’s competence after its performance on the mortgage debacle.”

Solidarity and Struggle: 50 Years with Che

(This article is the first of seven pieces dedicated to the Cuban revolution and its defeat of the US imperialist invasion 50 years ago, April 17-19, 1961, and embraces my half-century struggle.)

 
I. Sharing Che’s Activism

Che’s penetrating eyes stare at me seriously as I write about him. It is strange that I have never written about him before, other than to quote him. Perhaps it is because Che has been too large a figure for me to tackle? I don’t know. This writing, though, is a commemoration of Che and of my 50 years in our common struggle.

Ernesto Guevara was my greatest personal inspiration and Cuba’s revolution was my greatest collective inspiration—along with the Vietnamese resistance fighters. Nicknamed Che, an Argentine expression, he lived and died as he preached. Che’s internationalist ideals, his consequent actions, his integrity and charm, have influenced my life all these decades.

What immediately attracted me was his forthright manner of speaking and writing, and his bravery and fairness in battle. Che’s dream was to liberate Latin America from the shackles of United States imperialism and its lackey national dictators and murderous straw men. This would be followed up by worldwide socialist revolution.

“I am Cuban and also Argentine…patriotic for Latin America…in the moment it might be necessary, I am disposed to offer my life for the liberation of whichever of the Latin American countries without asking anything of anyone.”

Those are his prophetic words printed on a calendar of photos, which I recently bought in the school room at La Higuera, Bolivia where he was murdered. The images of Che on my walls are important to me, as are some slogans, such as Fidel’s: “To be internationalist is to settle our own debt with humanity”—a moral displayed on Cuban billboards.

I began to share Che’s dream as my first life, that of a follower of the brutal and chauvinist American Dream, drew to a close. In my family, you were either an active American Dreamer, like my career militarist father, or a passive one like my grandmother, whose motto was: “Ignorance is Bliss”. I came to feel that these codes rejected other people. When I severed that knot, I entered a world of humanistic vision and struggle. I still see myself as a youth of the 60s, when many of us across the world fought the profiteering war-making empire-builders.
The author, Ron RidenourThe author, Ron Ridenour

Happy Birthday Jed! You're on the Rolls as a Potential Draftee in America's Wars

America’s wars came home today in the mail, with a letter from the Selective Service. Enclosed was my son Jed’s draft card, just a week ahead of his 18th birthday.

The card, which unlike the ones in my day, comes in technicolor, arrived along with a glossy brochure advertising the US military as: “The career you were born to pursue.”

The card featured a color photograph of a bunch of Army recruits jogging towards the reader wearing gray T’s and camo pants. Over the head of each of these runners was a career: scuba diver, computer software engineer, occupational therapist, firefighter, public relations, accountant, human services assistant, interpreter, musician, journalist…etc.

The journalist, appropriately, was buried behind the pack, so all you could see was about two thirds of her face. You might say she was “embedded” in the group.

Left out of these military careers were some important ones though: trained killer, sniper, spy, mass murderer, propagandist, wheelchair-bound amputee, depleted uranium cancer victim, homeless untreated PTSD sufferer, guilt-ridden survivor, incarcerated or dishonorably-discharged war resister.

The mailing also said nothing about the option of declaring one’s self a conscientious objector against war.
Jed Lindorff, potential draft resisterJed Lindorff, potential draft resister

A Report from the Poetry Trenches: Rexroth, Bukowski & the Politics of Literature

Bukowski loved the idea of poetry wars. Even at the lowest level of mimeo magazines, when he was co-editing Laugh Literary & Man the Humping Guns with Neeli Cherry, he jumped in guns blazing ready to take on the world. “Poetry,” he always said, “is a poor country without any boundaries. It’s open to all kinds of fools. All the poet has is his shitty little poem and his point of view. It’s like being on a bar stool, but with a piece of paper in your hand instead of a drink. You shout and scream and you hope someone will notice you.”

He thought poets were the spoiled children of literature: they had to do very little work to get published. They could write whatever they felt. Poetry was about feeling. It was not the complex work of a novelist or a journalist or a historian.

“Poets dazzle,” he said, “but often their best stuff is written in bitchy essays about what art is! When people call me a poet, it makes me want to vomit. I’m a writer!”

That was in 1976, when I was Arts editor of the L.A. Vanguard. I was doing a piece about Bukowski for the newspaper. Photographer Lory Robbin and I had showed up at Bukowski’s place on Carlton Way when he was first entertaining the woman who would later become Linda Bukowski. Lory got a great series of shots of the three of us drinking, while Bukowski was his usual outrageous self on tape.

The Vanguard had a policy about major pieces; they had to be approved by consensus among the editorial collective. When I handed in my piece on Bukowski, it was turned down by a three-to-two positive vote. Dorothy Thompson and Ron Ridenour turned it down because they viewed Bukowski as reactionary and anti-feminist.

I’d had this problem before. When we tried to send our male rock critic to a Holly Near concert, Near’s PR people threatened to withdraw their ad if we didn’t send a woman to review it. I sent Diana Saenz, who was a close friend, a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), and secretary to Howard Jarvis of Proposition 13 fame. She wrote a great review, added a few lines of a song from an RCP group called Prairie Fire, and managed to piss off everyone but me, but it ran, because we had a paid advertisement. Diana was a delightfully talented poet, propagandist, and radical organizer and she could never be thought of as politically correct!

As editor, I’d had enough of the PC bullshit! “If not Charles Bukowski,” I asked, “who would you have in mind?”
Kenneth RexrothKenneth Rexroth

The Battle Over PTSD

The battle over the meaning of a traumatic experience is fought in the arena of political discourse, popular culture and scholarly debate. The outcome of this battle shapes the rhetoric of the dominant culture and influences future political action.

–Kali Tal, Worlds Of Hurt: Reading the Literature of Trauma

_______________

There’s a major struggle for meaning going on in America now that centers on war trauma among returning soldiers and veterans of our wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and, now, Libya.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is the current official term for what has plagued soldiers throughout history as they returned from wars to civilian society. PTSD became an official term in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association in 1980, following a period of struggle among psychiatric authorities and activists that focused on the experiences of Vietnam veterans. The DSM is regularly revised and updated.

What sort of meaning one ascribes to war trauma depends on who one consults and how connected they may be, directly or ideologically, to the Department of Defense, which has a major stake in establishing certain parameters of meaning in how PTSD is perceived in the culture.

The key terms for the military are about establishing resiliency to facilitate the reintegration of soldiers into their units for future deployment and the idea of a warrior class with a warrior ethos. In the case of resiliency and reintegration, those concepts are also key in civilian-based trauma recovery. It just depends on what one is building resiliency for and what one intends to reintegrate a soldier into, civilian life or future re-deployment.

The era of the citizen soldier has faded into the past when there was a draft and when wars like World War Two were “popular” and widely understood to be defensive and to make sense to most people. Now, we have a completely volunteer military, an institution that is becoming more and more separated, even aloof, from civilian life, as it deploys its soldiers to fight foreign wars that, for many, make less and less sense and use up more and more national resources.

The mythic Ajax falling on his swordThe mythic Ajax falling on his sword

No one is a “soldier” anymore; whether you’re in special ops doing lethal night raids into Pakistan or repairing computers on a FOB, you’re now a “warrior” — as if you wore studded breast-plates and carried swords and lived by the rule come home with your shield or on it.

Not Licensed to Kill: America's Imperious Attitude in Pakistan is Wearing Thin

There was a truly bizarre and telling paragraph at the end of a Wall Street Journal news report today on Pakistan’s demand that the US bring home hundreds of CIA and Special Forces personnel operating undercover in that country, and that it halt the drone strikes in the border regions abutting Afghanistan, which have been killing countless civilian men, women and children.

Reporters Adam Entous and Matthew Rosenberg, with no sense of irony, wrote:

The US hasn’t committed to adjusting the drone program in response to Pakistan’s request. The CIA operates covertly, meaning the program doesn’t require Islamabad’s support, under US law. Some officials say the CIA operates with relative autonomy in the tribal areas. They played down the level of support they now receive from Pakistan.

Let’s parse this astonishing clip a bit. Earlier in the story, in fact in the lead, the article states that Pakistan has “privately demanded” that the CIA halt the drone strikes and pull out most of the CIA and Special Forces personnel operating in the country. But by the end of the article, we learn that the country is “requesting” a halt to attacks by the US on its own territory and people. But more odd is this notion that because the CIA is a covert agency, its operations don’t need Pakistan’s support under US law.

Excuse me for asking, but what exactly does US law have to do with whether or not the CIA needs another government’s support for it to operate in that country legally?

Missile-firing US drones have killed hundreds of innocent civilians in PakistanMissile-firing US drones have killed hundreds of innocent civilians in Pakistan