Even though most people know Norfolk, Virginia as the home of the largest American naval base in the world, NOB Norfolk, in this greater area known as Hampton Roads, which is inundated with other military bases, schools and commands as well, there is still great diversity of opinions and peoples, even within military ranks. On little notice today, Dec. 30, some thirty protesters began gathering at 4:30 PM in front of the City Hall complex at the corner of St Paul Blvd and City Hall Avenue to speak out against the Israeli assault on Gaza. They were still going strong at nightfall when I left around 6:00 PM. I interviewed four of them during the protest. The 4th interview was with Chris Towne of Norfolk, a member of Amnesty International who has been to the West Bank several times as a member, as well, of Holy Land Trust.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Even though most people know Norfolk, Virginia as the home of the largest American naval base in the world, NOB Norfolk, in this greater area known as Hampton Roads, which is inundated with other military bases, schools and commands as well, there is still great diversity of opinions and peoples, even within military ranks. On little notice today, Dec. 30, some thirty protesters began gathering at 4:30 PM in front of the City Hall complex at the corner of St Paul Blvd and City Hall Avenue to speak out against the Israeli assault on Gaza. They were still going strong at nightfall when I left around 6:00 PM. I interviewed four of them during the protest. The 3rd interview was with Reverend Pamela Anne Bro from Virginia Beach, also a minister in Virginia Beach.
Even though most people outside Virginia know Norfolk, Virginia as the home of the largest American naval base in the world, NOB Norfolk, in this greater area known as Hampton Roads, which is inundated with other military bases, schools and commands as well, there is still great diversity of opinions and peoples, even within military ranks. On little notice today, Dec. 30, some thirty protesters began gathering at 4:30 PM in front of the City Hall complex at the corner of St Paul Blvd and City Hall Avenue to speak out against the Israeli assault on Gaza. They were still going strong at nightfall when I left around 6:00 PM. I interviewed four of them during the protest. The 2nd interview was with Joe Filipowski from Norfolk, who went into considerable depth of analysis about not only Israeli, but American foreign policy.
Even though most people outside Virginia know Norfolk, Virginia as the home of the largest American naval base in the world, NOB Norfolk, in this greater area known as Hampton Roads, which is inundated with other military bases, schools and commands as well, there is still great diversity of opinions and peoples, even within military ranks. On little notice today, Dec. 30, some thirty protesters began gathering at 4:30 PM in front of the City Hall complex at the corner of St Paul Blvd and City Hall Avenue to speak out against the Israeli assault on Gaza. They were still going strong at nightfall when I left around 6:00 PM. I interviewed four of them during the protest. The first interview was with Jerry Tenney from nearby Smithfield.
Monday, December 29, 2008
27 December 2008
The Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip represent severe and massive violations of international humanitarian law as defined in the Geneva Conventions, both in regard to the obligations of an Occupying Power and in the requirements of the laws of war.
Those violations include:
Collective punishment – the entire 1.5 million people who live in the crowded Gaza Strip are being punished for the actions of a few militants.
Targeting civilians – the airstrikes were aimed at civilian areas in one of the most crowded stretches of land in the world, certainly the most densely populated area of the Middle East.
Disproportionate military response – the airstrikes have not only destroyed every police and security office of Gaza's elected government, but have killed and injured hundreds of civilians; at least one strike reportedly hit groups of students attempting to find transportation home from the university.
Earlier Israeli actions, specifically the complete sealing off of entry and exit to and from the Gaza Strip, have led to severe shortages of medicine and fuel (as well as food), resulting in the inability of ambulances to respond to the injured, the inability of hospitals to adequately provide medicine or necessary equipment for the injured, and the inability of Gaza's besieged doctors and other medical workers to sufficiently treat the victims.
Certainly the rocket attacks against civilian targets in Israel are unlawful. But that illegality does not give rise to any Israeli right, neither as the Occupying Power nor as a sovereign state, to violate international humanitarian law and commit war crimes or crimes against humanity in its response. I note that Israel's escalating military assaults have not made Israeli civilians safer; to the contrary, the one Israeli killed today after the upsurge of Israeli violence is the first in over a year.
Israel has also ignored recent Hamas' diplomatic initiatives to reestablish the truce or ceasefire since its expiration on 26 December.
The Israeli airstrikes today, and the catastrophic human toll that they caused, challenge those countries that have been and remain complicit, either directly or indirectly, in Israel's violations of international law. That complicity includes those countries knowingly providing the military equipment including warplanes and missiles used in these illegal attacks, as well as those countries who have supported and participated in the siege of Gaza that itself has caused a humanitarian catastrophe.
I remind all member states of the United Nations that the UN continues to be bound to an independent obligation to protect any civilian population facing massive violations of international humanitarian law – regardless of what country may be responsible for those violations. I call on all Member States, as well as officials and every relevant organ of the United Nations system, to move on an emergency basis not only to condemn Israel's serious violations, but to develop new approaches to providing real protection for the Palestinian people.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Must Watch video. Already a million hits!
In many ways, the Palestinians are to the Israelis what the Helots were to the Spartans in ancient Greece, conquered, exploited people whom we have praised in history for having the character to at least rebel against their conditions. The Palestinians, however, don't even have the privilege of being called state-owned serfs, but de facto serfs without a state, treated more like dogs by the Israelis than as humans, particularly by brazen Israeli settlers, who often beat them or even shoot them on their own land.
Why is it, then, that when Palestinians rebel against their conditions, the so-called civilized Western world sides with their oppressors time and time again? Any answers?
Anyway, here is a little history lesson about Helots in Greece:
Helots: class of unfree peasants in Spartan society, who may be defined as state-owned serfs.
In Antiquity, all humans were unequal. Citizenship was a privilege; magistracies were usually reserved for men; not everyone was allowed to serve in the army; the right to marry was restricted; not everybody was permitted to own land; certain professions were considered to be vulgar; and nearly every society had at least one class of people who were not their own masters. They were unfree. The idea that all members of society are equal for the law, have identical rights and are free, simply did not exist.
Spartan society was no exception to this rule. Like other towns in ancient Greece, all people belonged to different groups, and there was a class of unfree laborers, the helots. Typically, they were peasants, but they are sometimes found in other sectors of Spartan society (as servants at home, guards, and grooms), and although they were believed to be ethnically different from the Spartan elite, they could be emancipated and enter the world of the free-born.
None of this is unique, and ancient and modern authors have found it very difficult to define helotism, because it was not considered to be an ordinary type of unfree labor. Unlike the slaves in Athens, helots had families and communities of their own, and they were no private property. Therefore, Pausanias calls them "slaves of the commonwealth". Strabo of Amasia says they were "some sort of public slaves", and other authors say they were a category between slaves and free people. Perhaps the best approach is to leave the niceties for what they are, and simply define helots as a class of unfree laborers.
Probably, helotism is a very ancient category; it may even be a survival from Mycenean times. It has been assumed that when the Dorians conquered Laconia (the southeast of the Peloponnese), they reduced the native population to the status of helots. An argument for this theory is that the word heilôtes may be related to a verb that means "capture". On the other hand, the Dorian invasion is poorly understood, and it is perhaps unwise to use a poorly understood phenomenon to explain another poorly understood phenomenon.
Whatever the origins of helotism and its relation to slavery, it is reasonably certain that when the Spartans conquered Messenia in the southwest of the Peloponnese (probably in the eighth or seventh century), the native population became helots. They were forced to work on the land and had to give the fruits to the Spartans. However, their communities were left intact and they were allowed to have their own religious ceremonies. They still had an identity as Messenians, must have defined themselves as a repressed class, and hoped to liberate themselves. Writing much later, Xenophon stated that helots would gladly eat their masters raw, and several revolts of Messenian helots have been recorded.
In fact, the creation of a great number of helots in Messenia caused great problems and led to the introduction of a strict military discipline among the Spartans, who became a specialized military class. They had to be permanently on their guard, and it is not surprising, therefore, that their magistrates (the ephors) declared war upon the Messenians every year. If a member of the Spartan elite happened to kill a helot, it was not considered to be murder but an act of war. Other acts of violence and terror are recorded, and it seems that Spartan society as a whole suffered from a permanent fear of a helot rebellion. Probably, the helots outnumbered their masters by some seven to one.
On the other hand, there was also a more kind policy towards the helots, as if to appease them. Helots always could dream of being emancipated, and we know that the Spartan government did indeed sometimes liberate groups of helots. They were known as neodamôdeis and had the right to serve in the Spartan army, which also meant that they shared in the spoils. Former helots are also recorded as rowers.
The system collapsed in the fourth century. In 371, the Theban commander Epaminondas defeated the Spartans at Leuctra, and later, he invaded the Peloponnese, where he liberated the helots of Messenia. The helots of Laconia appear to have been emancipated later by the reformer kings Cleomenes III (235-222) and Nabis (207-192).
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Monday, December 22, 2008
Why wasn't Michael Connell placed in protective custody? This was the man who allegedly knew where the bodies were buried to insure Bush could steal the elections and make it into the White House 2x.
Rove, Cheney, and Bush are feverishly rewriting history. If there is any justice in America these three crooks and other leaders in the Bush administration will be held to account in a court of law for numerous charges ranging from war crimes to stealing our national elections.
It's Time for Us to Fight for Single Payee Health Insurance that covers EVERY American. Don't fall for the Fat Cats latest scheme--forcing us to pay private corporations to provide us health care IS INSANE and violates ANY sense of the "free market theory" that corporate Fat Cats use in their class war. We need to strive to become the healthcare system that is number one in QUALITY not COST.
Having worked in the medical field as a service provider AND also being a consumer of health care I want to be part of a single payee health insurance system because I want higher quality healthcar and a better price.
Contact your elected officials today and tell them to support HR 676
GIVE AMERICA A GIFT.
NATIONAL CALL-IN DAY FOR HR 676, Single-Payer Healthcare
Monday, December 22, 2008
Go here to get info on this vital issue. Contact your elected officials AND Senator Edward Kennedy. Speak out....the time is now.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Saturday, December 20, 2008
...if President-elect Obama truly believes in our equality and that his vision of "One America" includes us, and yet won't withdraw his invitation to Rev. Warren, there is something he can do to show that he is the ardent supporter of LGBT equality he claims.
Mr. Obama can and should immediately:
1. Invite one of the multitude of amazing LGBT faith leaders to join Reverend Warren onstage and allow for an additional invocation, showing the world that many LGBT people are people of faith and that we are a part of the faith community.
2. Announce that he will move forward comprehensive legislation to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity -- and provide equality in rights and benefits for same-sex couples -- in his first year in office. Not piecemeal but the whole kit and caboodle.
We have the most LGBT-friendly Congress in decades, and there is no time like the present to end discrimination once and for all.
We can live in a nation that treats every one of its citizens with fairness, equality, and dignity. Yes, we can.
It would be wonderful if Obama stands up for what he has promised--positive changes and an inclusive not exclusive government. It would be wonderful to celebrate the inauguration of our 44th President. Many folks who donated their time and money are hoping they will be able to join the inaugural celebration.
So now the ball is in Obama's court. Let's hope he makes a game winning play.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Obama has now chosen to hurl a major disrespectful insult to his progressive supporters by inviting a preacher of hate to be his spiritual representative at his inauguration. Obama is using inclusiveness as his excuse to embrace and elevate a preacher of hate to the center of his inaugural event. This should have been a moment of UNITY and CELEBRATION. Instead Obama continues to EXCLUDE his progressive base.
So there will be NO inauguration celebration for the progressives who worked hard to get this politician posing as a change agent into office. A politician who EXCLUDES progressives and ELEVATES people who preach hate to powerful positions is not inclusive.
Inclusiveness is NOT an excuse for such outrageous actions that sell out your supporters again and again.
Hopefully Obama will stop EXCLUDING progressive supporters and disrespecting folks who simply want equal rights by elevating preachers of hate. Unfortunately I am seeing CHANGINESS masquerading as change.
It's time for some truth telling. Obama is NOT inclusive when he EXCLUDES PROGRESSIVES from his cabinet and his administration. Obama is supporting hate when he elevates a preacher of hate and conveys a high position of status to Rick Warren.
BO's judgement is stinking to high heaven. All of us who support equal rights should be angry with this horrible choice to embrace a preacher of hate.
FUBO!! I will fly the FUBO flag until you show some respect to the LGBT and progressive community.....Buzz....Buzz....Buzz....
FOX NEWS continues to broadcast hateful propaganda. The Iraqi's are ingrates because they are NOT grateful that Bush/Cheney invaded their country illegally and killed (at the best estimates) 600 thousand to 1 million Iraqi men, women and children? Get REAL FOX News and Juan Williams.
More Americans would be showing GW Bush and CHENEY their own disgust IF the corporate media gave a fair and balanced view which would include broadcasting the fact that Spain's prime minister met with George Bush approximately one month BEFORE Bush's illegal invasion to broker a deal---Saddam Hussein was willing to leave Iraq with his family, one billion dollars and information on WMD....the info on WMD was the paperwork that showed that George Bush's father supplied Iraq with the famous WMD that Hussein used on his own people. Saddam figured that this info would keep him safe from the George Bush's vendetta against him.
Now who's the ingrate? Juan Williams I hereby award you the title "ULTIMATE UGLY AMERICAN" of 2008. Maybe someone will invent another award tailor made for corporate mouthpieces like Juan Williams--the Ultimate Media Whore.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Today Code Pink is showing their soles in Lafayette Park across form the White House.
Since many of us can't drop everything at a moment's notice and drive up to DC to participate in person here's how you can speak out about Bush's outrageous indifference and incompetence at home and abroad.....
Mail your old shoes to George W. Bush at any (or all) of these addresses.
At the White House:
George W. Bush
1600 Pensylvania Ave NW
Washington DC 20500
The George W. Bush Presidential Library
6425 Boaz Lane
Dallas, TX 75205
And Finally at his new Preston Hollow Address:
George W. Bush
10141 Daria Pl
Dallas, TX 75229
Friday, December 12, 2008
Sharon performing an awesome sword dance, one of the entertainers highlighted in the playlist, which you can watch by clicking here.
For all of you who attended this year’s Fair Trade Festival on December 7 and 8 at the Five Points Community Farm Market in Norfolk on Church Street between 25th and 26th Streets, for those who couldn’t and wish they did, and even for those who have never even heard of the Festival or Market, here is a playlist I developed from some of the great entertainment Saturday, Dec 7, with some very fine belly dancing and a hot band to boot.
I shot this with my little Kodak digital camera and it did pretty good. There was some sound distortion, not too bad, although the Hot Boudin Brothers singer’s voice is really better than it sounds in my videos. Some day I will get one of those fancy and expensive video cameras and really get some professional sound recordings.
The Farm Market of course sells locally grown produce as well as a bevy of other nourishing products, and they love to host wonderful events like this Festival. You can check out their website at http://www.5ptsfarmmarket.org/.
A fair trade festival, by the way, for anyone who doesn't know, is a festival where products grown or crafted for certifiably equitable wages from around the world are showcased and sold, the idea being to offer a market to those companies who compensate their workers or contractors fairly, as opposed to many businesses who exploit and abuse employees as if they were chattel.
The video displayed here is the lead off for the playlist. Again, to watch the entire playlist, click here. It should cycle automatically ffrom video to video.
Enjoy the show.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Monday, December 01, 2008
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Let's make this a universal thanksgiving for all people and beings, not just a Yankee Thanksgiving unfortunately neutralized by slaughtering millions of sentient beings that we call turkeys, so here is a thanksgiving to Jah, the Rastafarian/Reggae term for the universal Creator.
This musical expression of thanks is especially poignant, because Boom Viniyard is acknowledging thanks to Jah despite the awful hurricane destruction that devastated the Caribbean several months ago.
Monday, November 24, 2008
It's creativity like this that proves Jean Campbell's thesis--there is Abundance all around us. We only need to open ourselves up to the possibilities. Imagine making water out of air....Some Canadians did; Four Elements has created a household appliance that makes water out of air. This invention will definitely "crimp up" the plans of those creepy corporate CEO who were on course to control the world's water supply. So much for the predicted water wars.
It is definitely time for what Jean likes to call A-Bun-Dance.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
The actual bias is "corporate control" not liberal theology.
How angry would the American people be with George Bush and the corporations of America if it was well known that we could have deposed Saddam Hussein without an invasion, no loss of life, and without bankrupting America. The truth? Saddam Hussein offered to leave Iraq weeks before Bush invaded Iraq and this has been "KNOWN" all along and NOT been reported. A few reports have emerged in the US over the years but the media refused to report it consistently....so the story has not become well known.
Doubt what I say? Then check out the multiple sources here.
Bush and the corporate media and their cronies lie to America and they have made huge profits from this.
Seems to me we need some new laws and regulations. What if..
No One could Profit from War. Corporations like to say they have the same "rights" as people (which I still dispute.) How about corporations have to be liable and responsible for their actions just like everyone else. Therefore, anything defense related has to be done at cost...actual costs NOT inflated costs. Corporate officers and top management should be prosecuted for any criminal decisions and activities that they participate in. Corporate decisions and policies should have a paper trail that can be accessed by regulatory authorities.
Media Corporations have to replace their fake news programs with citizen journalists chosen by local communities and regional communities that they serve. We will always have a need for sound local news reporting.
We should also realize that there are other areas where profit should not be allowed. I'm thinking clean air and clean water....these are basic human rights and corporations are currently trying to buy up the world's water. In fact, our nations banks are currently engaged in trying to purchase water rights in their unquenchable greed...the unquenchable greed that has currently landed us into our current economic predicament.
Shouldn't our Justice System go after the evildoers "especially" if they were the leaders making the biggest profits from this mess we are in? It's not about revenge it's about deterrence. We need to put an end to folks profiting from lying, stealing, torturing and killing for profits and/or power. The big fish should not be let off the hook if our justice system is going to be set right.
I remain hopeful that some on the extreme right are not lost in their Kool-Aid addiction and they will start to question many of the myths they currently swallow and will join the rest of the grassroots as we put the pressure on all our elected officials to serve our nation honorably,
Mosquito Update: Lately the posts have been sporadic due to new endeavors that the folks on this blog are exploring including the possibility of relocating to another communities for Alma, Star and possibly Mosquito.
acCongratulation to Mac on the recent publication of his book. Way to Go Mac!
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Sunday, November 02, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Lawsuits, Machine Malfunctions and Missing Absentee Ballots Among Voting Rights Issues Facing Jittery Election
To watch or hear the original show, CLICK HERE
With the election less than a week away, the battle is on for voting rights. Early voters across the country are reporting long lines and problems with electronic voting machines. Republicans, meanwhile, continue to file lawsuits that could stop thousands from voting. We speak to Harvey Wasserman of Free Press and Brad Friedman of the Brad Blog. [includes rush transcript]
Harvey Wasserman, Senior editor of the Ohio-based FreePress.org and co-author of What Happened in Ohio: A Documentary Record of Theft and Fraud in the 2004 Election and How the GOP Stole America’s 2004 Election and Is Rigging 2008.
Brad Friedman, independent journalist and commentator on election issues. He is the creator of The Brad Blog and has reported extensively on vote rigging.
This transcript is available free of charge. However, donations help us provide closed captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing on our TV broadcast. Thank you for your generous contribution.
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AMY GOODMAN: The election is less than a week away. The battle is on for voting rights. Early voters across the country are reporting long lines and problems with electronic voting machines, including vote flipping.
Republicans, meanwhile, continue to file lawsuits that could stop thousands from voting because their registration information does not exactly match government databases. Legal rulings in Wisconsin, Nevada and Ohio have rejected these challenges, and the US Supreme Court also dismissed a case earlier this month relating to 200,000 new voters in the battleground state of Ohio. But last week, the White House got involved and asked the Department of Justice to investigate the integrity of these 200,000 new voter registration forms. Ohio Democratic leaders, as well as the ACLU, have sent letters to the Attorney General, Michael Mukasey, urging him not to intervene in the election dispute in Ohio.
Meanwhile, in Colorado, more than 11,000 voters in Denver have not received absentee ballots because of a mistake made by the company Sequoia Voting Systems. Sequoia was supposed to have delivered 21,000 ballots to a Denver mail processing facility on October 16, but the company only delivered about half the requested ballots.
I’m joined now by two guests who have been the watchdogs for voting rights. Harvey Wasserman is senior editor of the Ohio-based freepress.org, and he’s co-author of four books on voter rights. What Happened in Ohio: A Documentary Record of Theft and Fraud in the 2004 Election and How the GOP Stole America’s 2004 Election and Is Rigging 2008 are among them. He joins me from Columbus, Ohio. We’re also joined via video stream from Los Angeles by independent journalist Brad Friedman. He’s the creator of “The Brad Blog” at bradblog.com and has reported extensively on vote rigging.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Harvey Wasserman, let’s begin with you. Talk about the latest around this issue of the 200,000 new voters’ new voter registration forms.
HARVEY WASSERMAN: Well, the GOP is trying to disenfranchise these 200,000 people by challenging their right to vote, asking the Secretary of State here, Jennifer Brunner, to let the counties investigate and knock off the voter rolls, if they choose to, people who have minor discrepancies in their Social Security numbers or driver’s license numbers. And the Secretary of State has rightfully showed that many of these mistakes come from typographical errors when the numbers are entered in at the agencies. And so, essentially, what the GOP is doing is asking to disenfranchise people because of a minor typographical error. We are supporting the Secretary of State in resisting this attempt.
The US Supreme Court has rejected this challenge to these 200,000 voters, but now the Bush administration has ordered or has asked the Attorney General, Mukasey, to get involved. This is reminiscent of the interjection in the 2006 election, when nine federal prosecutors were asked to get involved in alleged voter fraud, which turned out to be nonexistent.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain further what is happening around the White House urging Mukasey to get involved, the ACLU saying he shouldn’t get involved? And go back a little in time to, well, really why his predecessor, why the former Attorney General, Gonzales, actually was forced out of office, resigned.
HARVEY WASSERMAN: Yes. Attorney General Gonzales was forced out of office because he ordered nine federal prosecutors, nine federal employees, to prosecute voter fraud that didn’t exist. The idea was, on the part of the Bush administration, to disenfranchise as many people as possible by federal means in the 2006 election. And essentially, this is a replay here.
In Ohio, 200,000 votes exceeds substantially Bush’s alleged margin of victory in 2004. It’s a lot of votes out of 5.4 million that voted in 2004. So this is a very substantial attack on the ability—this is all about new voters, by the way, who have filed new forms. And it’s a very strong attempt to discourage new voters from coming into the place of voting and to affect the election. 200,000 votes thrown off the voter rolls here would be a very substantial chunk and could actually affect the outcome of the election.
AMY GOODMAN: There was another very important ruling that Bill O’Reilly of Fox was extremely upset about, and it’s the ruling by a federal judge that counties must allow homeless voters to list park benches and other locations that aren’t buildings as addresses.
HARVEY WASSERMAN: Yeah, well, these people are still citizens. Many of them, in fact, are veterans. And it’s quite ironic that the great patriot Bill O’Reilly would want to disenfranchise veterans.
We are seeing this up and down the line here in Ohio. We had a sheriff in Greene County attempt to disenfranchise students, or at least make a move toward it. You know, there’s always a question whether a student votes at home or on campus, and in Greene County there are a number of colleges, and the sheriff there threatened 308 voters with prosecution based on where they registered to vote. He was forced to back off of that.
And we are having a pretty good counterattack by voting rights advocates in this state, unlike 2004, where the election was essentially stolen without people fighting for it. This time around, I think people are standing up, and it’s going to be, we hope, a very different outcome.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the Secretary of State, Jennifer Brunner, who’s been challenged time and time again. Also, aren’t there a series of ads that the Republicans have begun running, many times a day, around the issue of voter fraud?
HARVEY WASSERMAN: Well, this is a total red herring. The Cincinnati Enquirer, a conservative Republican paper in Cincinnati, has investigated prosecutions for voter fraud since the 1950s and found less than ten, a bare handful. It’s really a false issue. It is a felony to vote fraudulently, and people just don’t do it. I think the Times, the New York Times, has run a statistic of something like eighteen successful prosecutions of voting fraud throughout the United—voter fraud throughout the United States in the last four or five years. So, it’s really a nonexistent problem. But the Republicans have seized upon it in an attempt to essentially de-legitimize this election and to discourage people from voting. We’ve seen the whole flap with ACORN and other instances where the Republicans are charging that there are massive hordes of people coming in to vote fraudulently. This is just not happening.
But we see a concerted campaign here in Ohio by the Republicans to de-legitimize the Democratic Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, who we feel has been relatively even-handed. She is not like J. Kenneth Blackwell was in 2004, the co-chair—Blackwell then was the co-chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign running the election. This year, Jennifer Brunner is not the co-chair of the Obama campaign, and we feel that she’s had a pretty good even-handed impact on the election. In fact, she attempted here to provide paper ballots for all who wanted them, who came to the polls and did not want to vote on electronic voting machines. And the Republicans, who control the legislature and the purse strings, screamed that this would cost too much money and have not allowed that to happen.
AMY GOODMAN: Harvey, you have written four books on the subject of the elections and votes being stolen. What do you expect in these next—I mean, the election is, well, within a week, less than a week away.
HARVEY WASSERMAN: Well, we expect a mix. We think it’s going to be much, much better than it was in 2004. A study in 2004 showed it took black voters in the state nearly an hour to vote, as opposed to white voters getting in in fifteen minutes or less. We don’t expect that to be rerun. We do expect some problems. We know in 2004 there was a selective shortchanging of black precincts on voting machines. We don’t expect that to happen again.
We will have thousands of observers at the polls, and we are urging everyone who’s interested to come out and be an election observer, come to the polls with a camera and make sure that if people are coming out of the polls with complaints, that they are recorded. And we will have hearings after the election to swear people in with affidavits so they can be used in court cases. In general, we—that their testimony can.
We generally expect a much smoother process this year, we hope, but we are still subject to electronic voting machines. As many as half of the people who vote at the polls on Election Day may be voting on electronic voting machines. We’re already seeing vote flipping from electronic voting machines in other states, as we saw in Ohio in Youngstown and Columbus in 2004. In both cases, people pushed John Kerry, and George Bush lit up. Now we’re seeing people pushing Barack Obama, and John McCain lighting up. We hope that that doesn’t happen again, and we’re going to have to fight that, because it’s very difficult to correct that on Election Day.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break, and when we come back, Harvey Wasserman will stay with us, and we’ll be joined by Brad Friedman of Brad Blog. We’ll find out about the Sequoia Voting in Colorado. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re looking at voting around the country. Yes, early voting, millions of people are doing it. Harvey Wasserman with us, senior editor at the Ohio-based freepress.org. His book, How the GOP Stole America’s 2004 Election and Is Rigging 2008, among four books he’s written on voting. Brad Friedman with us, independent journalist with “Brad Blog” at bradblog.com. He has reported extensively on issues of vote rigging.
Talk about Sequoia and Colorado. Welcome, Brad, to the video stream.
BRAD FRIEDMAN: Thank you, Amy. Great to be here.
Yeah, well, Sequoia is one of the big four voting machine companies. Of course, they have failed in state after state. Their most recent failure here—and it’s hard to keep up with them, when it comes to Sequoia—is the 11,000 ballots that they were—absentee ballots that they were supposed to print out and send. They didn’t. They lied about it. And hopefully, once they got caught, now they’ll hopefully be sending them out this week, and hopefully voters will be getting them.
But, to me, by far, the greater concern is these electronic touch-screen machines all over the country, which are beginning to fail in state after state. And officials are claiming it’s a recalibration issue; if they recalibrate the screen, that will take care of it. And I’ve got to say that advising anyone to touch these machines, to insert memory cartridges in them, which is needed for recalibration, while they’re programmed is absolutely insane. And the fact that the Democratic Party is doing little or nothing and allowing these machines to continue to be used, instead of pulling them and requiring folks to vote on paper ballots, is to their shame, and it’s somewhat maddening at this point this many years into this, knowing what we know about these systems.
AMY GOODMAN: Tell us more about vote flipping and touch screens in West Virginia, what’s happening there with early voting.
BRAD FRIEDMAN: Sure. And it’s not just—it’s West Virginia, it’s Tennessee, it’s Texas, Missouri, Nevada. Generally, what seems to happen here is people go in and vote for a Democratic straight party ticket or for Barack Obama, and the vote flips to a Republican or some other candidate. We’ve got video of that at bradblog.com that folks can take a look at, see it for themselves. And we’ve actually got an election official showing a machine with one of these problems, showing—suggesting that it’s a calibration—a screen calibration issue, showing how when you vote for one candidate, it flips to another. And then he says, “Look, here we’re recalibrating it now so it will now work fine,” and we actually see that it still doesn’t work fine even after he’s recalibrated it. He tries to make a straight party vote, and it ends up selecting Ralph Nader for president.
These machines need to be pulled out, because even when they work, the problem is that there is absolutely no way to ever verify that any vote ever cast on a touch-screen machine like this has been recorded as per the voter’s intent. It’s strictly impossible, even with a so-called paper trial. And that Democrats aren’t raising holy hell about it is maddening, frustrating and, frankly, to their shame at this point, knowing what we know.
AMY GOODMAN: Brad, let’s turn to some of the problems that have been reported with the electronic voting machines, as you were pointing out. Virginia Methaney from Jackson County, West Virginia, was one of the first people to report a problem with vote flipping last week after her attempt to vote Democrat was flipped to Republican. Videothevote.org spoke to Virginia Methaney about her experience.
VIRGINIA METHANEY: When I pressed to enter my vote for the Democrat, the checkmark jumped to the one above, to the Republican. Well, I pressed the Democrat again, and it jumped up again. So I asked a poll worker. I said, “Well, why would this machine not allow me to vote for my candidate?” She said, “Well”—she said, “It’s got a sensitive screen.” She said, “You’re touching it too hard.” She said, “Just barely use the tip of your fingernail to touch it,” which I did. Then I went to the next candidate, it did the same thing. I voted for the Democrat, it jumped up to the Republican. Well, then she told me, she said, “Just keep pressing the one that you want to vote for, and it will finally take.” Well, I did, and it did stay there, but I proceeded to have problems through—all through the ballot.
After I had the problem voting, I filed a formal complaint with the Secretary of State’s office. And her deputy investigator called me to ask me what happened. I told him. He said, “Well, it sounded like the machines need to be recalibrated, that when they’re moved, sometimes it messes them up.”
AMY GOODMAN: Videothevote.org also spoke to Jackson County, West Virginia county clerk Jeff Waybright about the vote flips on the iVotronic machines.
JEFF WAYBRIGHT: If the poll worker got to a machine and it was out of calibration, this is what would happen. I’m going to touch Barack Obama there, but notice, it jumped clear down to Chuck Baldwin, because the machine is out of calibration. Now it sent me to a screen to vote a write-in ballot. When I hit Barack Obama—the machine is out of calibration—it did not jump up to the Republican candidate, it did not vote a straight Republican ticket, and it did—it jumped down to Chuck Baldwin.
AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask you, Brad Friedman of “Brad Blog,” what should people do? I mean, we heard from Virginia in West Virginia, and she did file a complaint. How do you know when it takes or if it hasn’t taken? And this whole issue of a receipt for voting, like we get when you get money from an ATM, is there a receipt anywhere in the country?
BRAD FRIEDMAN: Well, and that tape, by the way, of West Virginia of Waybright, as that tape continues, he shows what happens after they recalibrate the system, and the problems still occur. So, to recalibrate in the middle of an election is insane. That’s the most vulnerable point for these systems, where you can insert malicious software and anything else.
As to receipts, no, you don’t get them. You shouldn’t get them, because the fact is, we don’t want people leaving the polls and being able to buy and sell, you know, their vote. That’s why it’s so important to have transparency, to get it right in the first place. And any so-called receipt should be a paper ballot, hand-marked, that we all can go in—every citizen in the country can go in and take a look at after the election and assure that it was in fact counted correctly as per the voter’s intent. That is strictly impossible with any direct-recording electronic—these are usually touch-screen voting machines. It is strictly impossible, no matter what it says on the screen, to know, in fact, that that vote was counted as per the voter’s intent. That’s why these machines are so damn dangerous.
And I was on the air last week in Reno, Nevada with Harry Reid, who actually came on the air and said, “Well, we’re lucky here in Nevada, because we have a paper trail for all of our votes.” Fact is, in Reno, Nevada, they use illegally certified touch-screen machines, yes, with a paper trail, but 100 percent unverifiable as far as whether they’re recording the voter’s intent.
So you’ve got to fight for a paper ballot, you’ve got to ask for one where you’re allowed to have one, and, yes, please, bring a video camera, videotape your vote, put it out there on the web, videothevote.org, end up on YouTube. This time we’ve got to make a lot of noise about what happens. I promise you, if this happens to Republicans, they’ll be making noise. I’m disappointed that the Democratic Party and Barack Obama is not making the noise that they should be and demanding that these machines be removed and voters given paper ballots.
AMY GOODMAN: Brad Friedman, in the case of this West Virginia voter, the woman who described what happened, she’s sitting there with the poll worker showing her what’s happening. So, I mean, this ends privacy in voting. You’ve got to bring in the poll worker and show them who you’re trying to vote for?
BRAD FRIEDMAN: Yeah, that’s—unfortunately, that’s what has to happen, because if you don’t, A, they can’t help you with these machines—they’re very complicated to use—and B, nobody’s going to believe you that this problem occurred in the first place. They probably won’t believe you, even if you do have a poll worker over there. That’s why we’re suggesting people bring their cell phone, their video camera—cell phone video cameras and videotape this experience that they have when a vote jumps from one candidate to another.
But yeah, these are the hoops that we’ve been forced to jump through in order to try to cast our vote, to try and get it counted and to try and get it counted accurately. And after all of these years of, you know, folks like Harvey and myself running around with our hair on fire trying to warn people about this, it’s disappointing, to say the least, to see this going on now in state after state after state. It’s not just West Virginia, I promise you that.
AMY GOODMAN: Again, Brad of “Brad Blog” is joining us by video stream from California. This issue of the emergency declared by Governor Crist in Florida and allowing the lines—allowing the polling places to be extended to twelve hours, Brad, can you talk about this, these extremely long lines in Florida for early voting?
BRAD FRIEDMAN: Yeah, I can. And frankly, this is to Governor Charlie Crist, a Republican—it’s to his effort, especially in the midst of this all-out Republican war on democracy that we’re seeing all across the country. So I’m going to give Governor Crist credit there for trying to ease the lines. In fact, the Republican legislature had shortened the early voting hours some time ago. And they’re seeing all kinds of problems, all kinds of lines.
The bottlenecks, unfortunately, are tending to be at the registration check-in process. Once again, these computers that are used to check people in to register to vote, that seems to be the bottleneck, because, in fact, the state of Florida has moved to paper ballots. And I’ve seen some of these election registrars—supervisors of election down there in Florida ordering more optical scan machines into the polling places, when that’s not the holdup. The opscan process is done at the end of voting. The holdup is checking people in. The bottleneck is the computers, the voter registration computers.
And this comes back to some of the same draconian processes that, in fact, Charlie Crist did allow to be used, this “no match, no vote” process, where, you know, if I’m registered as “Brad Friedman” but my driver’s license says “Bradley Friedman,” I might be disallowed from voting. That’s the holdup down there. In either case, extending the voting hours each day to something like twelve hours is a very good idea. I give him credit for that. And, boy, I hope folks will take advantage of getting in there and casting their vote, come hell or high water.
AMY GOODMAN: This doesn’t bode well for Election Day. I mean, it does that he extended the time of the polling places, but this is still early voting. This is before November 4th.
BRAD FRIEDMAN: Yeah. And I’ll tell you, I’ve been calling this the November surprise for some time. I’m quite concerned that on Election Day, not only will the crowds be enormous, but that we are again going to see bottlenecks at that check-in procedure, where thousands, tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of voters around the country, state to state, find that they are suddenly no longer on the voting rolls. And I’ve been speaking with people within the last week who are saying, “Hey, Brad, you were right. I didn’t bother to check my registration. I voted in the primary. And suddenly, I’m no longer on the rolls.” That’s going to be a bottleneck at the check-in.
Republicans are going to be challenging voters in state after state, again, making what is going to be an extraordinarily huge turnout even worse, by simply challenging people at the polls. That’s going to lead to even longer lines. And, of course, Election Day is a work day, so a lot of folks can’t afford to stand around for three, four, eight, ten hours to cast their vote. We’ve got to do something about this mess.
But I want people to hang in there, to fight for their vote, help other people vote. Bring chairs, bring water, bring food. Help your neighbors. This is a time for courage and for people to step forward and fight for that right to cast that vote that so many have fought and died for over decades in this country. This is what democracy is about. It’s not a spectator sport. It’s a participatory democracy. We’re going to have to get in there and fight for each and every one of our votes this year, I’m afraid.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Brad Friedman of bradblog.com. Harvey Wasserman, also with us in Ohio, a battleground state. Harvey Wasserman, in Pennsylvania, John Bonifaz and all the voting rights groups filed suit to ensure that there be paper ballots not just when all the polling booths in a polling place are shut down, but if even one is shut down, because, of course, it will mean much longer lines. What do you expect to come of this?
HARVEY WASSERMAN: Well, it’s very important that we have paper ballots wherever possible. We want paper ballots available to people who show up and are confronted with a voting machine, an electronic voting machine, and would prefer to vote on a paper ballot. We’re also urging—here in Ohio, you can vote early and get a paper ballot. And we’re—as Brad has mentioned and my co-author Bob Fitrakis has often pointed out, it’s much better to vote on a paper ballot and to do it early.
There will be huge lines on Election Day, which is to the credit of the American people. But we expect, here in Ohio and in Pennsylvania, and especially in the key states, Florida, as well, that the Republicans will be in there challenging every voter, every little number in your Social Security number or your driver’s license, middle initials that show up on driver’s licenses but not on voter registration forms. These will all be at issue on Election Day. The Republicans have made it clear that they will challenge every vote that they possibly can and to introduce as much chaos as they possibly can into the election process.
We want people also, if you have a problem voting, to find a lawyer and give a sworn affidavit. I am a plaintiff in the King Lincoln Bronzeville civil rights suit. This suit has had an enormous impact. You know, Jennifer Brunner is getting a lot of justifiable credit here in Ohio for cleaning up the election process, but it’s been moved along by the fact that we’ve had a very effective federal lawsuit. Any discrepancies, any problems that people have voting, they should be accounted for with an affidavit, sworn testimony, so that these can be used in lawsuits in the post-election process.
AMY GOODMAN: Does that have to happen right at the point of voting? I mean, who is going to bring a lawyer to the polling place?
HARVEY WASSERMAN: Well, that’s the point. We want lawyers at the polling places. We want—as Brad has pointed out and as Bob has pointed out, we want everything videoed, and we also want lawyers available, so that people can have guidance. A lot of people are not clear on what the process is, and a lot of people have been intimidated by the Republicans, both in 2004, we saw it in 2006. We’re certainly going to see it in 2008 at the voting stations. The only way the GOP is going to win this election is to intimidate voters and knock as many of them off the voter rolls as they possibly can.
Brad also mentioned, people who may think they are registered to vote may come in for a nasty surprise when they get to the polls, and the time to check that is now. If you think you’re registered to vote or if you know people who think they’re registered to vote, check with your board of election now and make sure that things are in order, because if you turn up on Election Day and have a problem, you’re going to be part of the problem and not part of the solution.
AMY GOODMAN: Brad.
BRAD FRIEDMAN: Yeah, if I could add, in Pennsylvania, I’m really troubled about what’s going on there, because, in fact, we saw during the primary elections where voting machines were simply breaking down all over the state. Now—and they use touch screens almost everywhere out there. Now, never mind, you know, the hacking, the error, the fact that they don’t count correctly. The fact is, when they don’t start up, voters can’t vote.
And incredibly, the Democratic Secretary of State out there decreed that, as you said, no paper ballots need to be given out unless every machine breaks down in a precinct. Harvey can tell you what happened in Ohio when just one machine broke down in many of those precincts in 2004. And the fact that the Democrats aren’t raising holy hell about it and that, in fact, John Bonifaz and the NAACP had to be the one to file suit there and say, “Oh, please, give us paper ballots if a majority of machines break down”—the fact is, the state law already allows paper ballots to be given out if just one machine breaks down.
HARVEY WASSERMAN: Well, we don’t think—
BRAD FRIEDMAN: But I’m afraid they’re not even going to have enough paper ballots out there. And, you know, we have a history. We know what has happened in Pennsylvania and all of the other states. And I can’t understand why Democrats aren’t demanding that there be enough paper ballots in every polling place for every voter this year, because I guarantee we’re going to be running out of them real quick.
HARVEY WASSERMAN: Brad is absolutely right. You know, and this term he used earlier, “recalibration,” when you hear the term “recalibration,” you have to think stolen election, because recalibration is a cover for re-rigging electronic voting machines. And we know that this went on in Ohio 2004. It’s how George Bush got his second term. And recalibration means, essentially, that they’re rigging up the voting machine’s memory cards and general mechanisms to allow the theft of an election.
It is absolutely absurd that the Democratic Party has not stepped forward and demanded universal paper ballots everywhere. It should not depend on the breakdown of a voting machine to have universal paper ballots. To her credit, Jennifer Brunner here in Ohio requested that, did her very best to get it. We think she has to fight far harder to get universal paper ballots everywhere, whether the voting machines break down or not. And that’s an issue that the Democratic Party and Barack Obama really needs to take up now. As he said, one week. We’re really down to the wire. There need to be paper ballots everywhere, or this election could go the way of 2000 and 2004.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, are you talking to them in the Democratic Party? Why do you think—Brad has raised this over and over in this interview, that he feels that the Democrats are not pursuing this half as strenuously as Republicans are pursuing their issues.
HARVEY WASSERMAN: We have—I have absolutely no idea why the Democratic Party has fallen down. They fell down in 2000. They fell down in 2004. And they’re now—and we are in danger here. People are getting a little comfortable with Barack Obama’s apparent lead in the polls. That could disappear with the pulling of a plug or the recalibration of a machine. This is a very serious situation. The only solution is hand-counted paper ballots, which are observed by the media and by both parties when they’re counted. And there’s no other way to guarantee a free and fair election.
AMY GOODMAN: Harvey Wasserman and Brad Friedman, we will leave it there for now, but, of course, we’ll continue to pursue this. In fact, Democracy Now! will be broadcasting live for five hours, beginning 7:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Tuesday night in a Democracy Now! election special for every television and radio station to take around the country. And on the morning after, we’ll be expanding our broadcast to two hours, beginning 8:00 Eastern Standard Time in the morning. And we will be talking with people all over the country election night, and we want people reporting in problems that they are having or actually successes they’ve had in voting. You can go to our website at democracynow.org, where we’ll also be video streaming the broadcast in the evening and the morning after. You can call your stations and ask them what time they’ll be broadcasting Democracy Now!
Harvey Wasserman, thanks so much for joining us—
HARVEY WASSERMAN: Thank you, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: —of freepress.org. And Brad Friedman of bradblog.com, thanks for joining us by the DN! video stream.
Monday, October 20, 2008
As John McCain and Sarah Palin continue their nasty lies in a full frontal assault on Barack Obama's campaign their rhetoric is increasing the divisiveness and violence in our country.
In Tennessee, a white woman is assaulted by three white men in a car who drive recklessly and yell racial epithets at her. Her crime is supporting Barack Obama; her car had an Obama bumper sticker on it. Her Obama yard signs are also being stolen.
In Seattle and Boston ACORN offices are vandalized and ACORN workers are threatened.
Welcome to Domestic Terrorism Republican Style. John McCain's dis-honorable campaign is spurring the extremists in the Republican party into action. The McCain campaign has crossed a line and is now in league with domestic terrorists. How else can anyone explain the McCain Palin inflammatory speeches and their refusal to speak out against these acts of violence?
Sunday, October 19, 2008
The Republican Party--RP--is trying to use the "Acorn Issue" to camouflage their vote purging and suppression strategies. After the 2000 and 2004 Presidential elections no one should underestimate the RP's ability to steal your vote using electronic voting machines. In a West Virginia Republican county early voters report that the machine is switching their Obama votes to McCain.
The Corporate Media--CM--refuses to report the actual problems that will actually disenfranchise voters. The CM has focused its floodlights on Acorn, which is no threat to alter the voting results in this election.. Where is the reporting on the real threats that are being perpetrated by the RP in multiple instance across the country? Unfortunately we won't see the same corporate media focus on the real threats such as: the West Virginia vote switching,
the Michigan RP's plan to disenfranchise voters who have lost their homes to foreclosure, and the vote purging that is going on in many states? This remains a big problem in Ohio.
These are massive scale vote stealing, suppression strategies and yet the CM refuses to report these. The same Corporate Media consistently spreads the "liberal media myth" that many Americans still believe. Heaven forbid if we should see the incredibly powerful corporate entities that hide behind the CM's curtain.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Philly fans booed Sarah Palin and now the Philly local news media is ignoring McCain. It seems that "me first" McCain decided to hold a news conference. Only one tv cameraman showed up; the Philly corporate media decided that covering a local corpse was more interesting than a McCain news conference.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Friday, October 10, 2008
Seems like the corporate media is continuing to distort the news. Tom Brokaw appears to favor John McCain, the Republican candidate.
Thursday, October 09, 2008
Tuesday Oct 14 at 7:30 pm
Famed prosecutor and #1 New York Times bestselling author Vincent Bugliosi has written the most powerful, explosive, and thought-provoking book of his storied career. As a prosecutor dedicated to seeking justice, his book "The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder" delivers a non-partisan argument, free from party lines, based upon hard facts and pure objectivity.
The evening will include film clips from the new documentary Secrecy (www.secrecyfilm.com). A book-signing follows the talk and screening. See more info under "News" page.
Sunday, October 05, 2008
It's mind boggling that not one State spoke out during the Congressional Wall Street Bail Out proceedings. Once the 700 Billion dollars was given away to the corporate Fat Cats then and only then does the Republican Governor from California asks for a $7 billion dollar loan.
Now another state and a major city are announcing major financial problems. The Democratic State Treasurer--Timothy Cahill-- of Massachusetts reports that the state cannot obtain a loan. Cahill wants the Federal Government to give Massachusetts a loan under the same terms the investment banks obtained their bail out. The City of Dallas is laying off 1100 employees due to indebtedness of 84 million dollars.
Congress should have NOT bailed out the Wall Street corporate fat cats and used the money so the 50 states in this country would be able to create jobs not lose them.
Saturday, October 04, 2008
Friday, October 03, 2008
Bill Clinton created more jobs than Bush Sr and Jr combined. According to Scott Davis:
The first Bush created 49 thousand jobs a month, Clinton 240, this Bush 51 thousand, even with the population growth we've had. Clinton raised taxes on the wealth at the start of his term. The Republicans at that time said it would create a Depression. Instead, we had the longest peacetime expansion since WWII.
Thursday, October 02, 2008
It is time for the taxpayer's to revolt? HOpefully, the House will refuse to Sell Out America....unlike Congress.
Norfolk VA's latest voter scandal involves violating the law and preventing college students living in dormitories from voting.
The Montgomery County voter registrar issued false warnings to suppress the college vote.
IF you are a college student (especially if you live in a dormitory) you should try to vote early. Then if you are having any difficulties you will have until Monday, Oct. 6 to re-register to vote.
It's probably a good idea for everyone (who qualifies--see VA Early Voting Law) who can vote early to do so....especially in swing states. After all, the Republican Party is doing everything it can to prevent Americans from voting. 's up to you to protect your vote and vote wisely.
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
"These are the times that try men's souls."
It is the duty of every patriot to protect his country from its government.
Thomas Paine (a "founding father," citizen journalist/pamphleteer")
Finally, Kucinich gets a chance to voice some sane alternatives to the bailout plan. I notice the corporate media is not putting the alternative approaches on TV. I'm still waiting for those 200 economists (including the three nobel prize winners) to be featured on TV so they can explain why the current plan will NOT work and will make our economic crisis worse. Instead the corporate media and our "alleged leaders" are trying to scare the American people into accepting an "immoral bill...that protects the few at the expense of the many."
What our "alleged leaders" do not understand....economic hardship isn't scaring us. We've been dealing with economic hardship for years...and yes it has been getting worse while they spend our tax dollars to "benefit the wealthy corporate elite's profits" and leave us footing the bills. For example the oil corporations, Haliburton, Blackwater, etc etc have gotten filthy rich off of that unnecessary Iraq War while the people have been put into debt.
So finally some of the pain has trickled up. Now many of our Senators and Representatives, along with their corporate lobbyists, will also feel some pain. "ouch" their retirement plans may lose some percentage points.
It's time to SHRED the Paulson Bailout Plan and put it in the compost pile (where it belongs). Then roll up your sleeves in the Senate and use Bernie Sanders plan as a starting point. In the house, start with Dennis Kucinich's plan and reach a bipartisan agreement that will help our country and rescue what's left of our economy.
Will someone take the time to explain to Senator Obama that we need a "bottom up" plan not this "top down" elitist plan that he currently endorses? Now is the time for all of us to unite and tell all our "alleged leaders" of all parties that we refuse to let them sell us and our country out. Call your Senators and Representatives....let them know that they cannot scare us into this atrocious, immoral Wall Street Bailout. The propaganda is not going to work on this one.
I may vote for the "lesser of the two evils" once again....but Dennis Kucinich is the preferred Presidential Candidate.
Monday, September 29, 2008
This is the ultimate lipstick on a pig.
They refuse to work with the INDEPENDENT Senator from Vermont--Bernie Sanders---which proposes placing the burden on the people who have profitted from the Bush economic plan. Sanders proposed taxing the wealthy elite for a limited five year time period....If you are single and make over 500k a year then you will pay a 10% surcharge for five years, and couples making over 1 million a year would also pay a 10% surcharge for five years. It's about time the wealthy elite took some responsibility. This plan would bring 300 billion dollars to the table and reduce the cost to the taxpayer by 50%.
Why does Wall Street business get to do business with no sales tax? Wall street wants a handout so they should help pay for it with a sales tax. This is the only fair thing to do; this is the perfect time to put a sales tax on Wall Street.
Why is Wall Street setting the terms for it's own bailout? Wall Street thinks it should set the terms and conditions for the government bail out? This takes arrogance to new heights. It looks like Wall Street OWNS our Congress.
If "our" government is going to act on this matter then the costs of this should be placed on the people who have benefited from the crisis they created; the wealthy are also actually able to foot this bill handily. The rich have become very rich (at the taxpayers expense) under the Bush administration. Funny, I don't hear any Democrats or Republicans bringing up how the middle and lower class have lost ground under the Bush administration.
IF Congress were doing it's job and representing the American people instead of the corporations. They would insist that the wealthy taxpayers and Wall Street pay for this bailout by having the necessary taxes be a part of the bail out bill. They would insist that the government not get stuck with worthless junk. The people deserve real assets and a fair ownership interest. Our nation has many problems that need to be addressed. The nation should make money off of any Wall Street deal so this can be used to fix our infrastructure, solve our energy problem, and create new jobs so that working people will have the boots and bootstraps that we know how to put to good use.
So why is the Democratic party going along with the Bush plan and making their constituents pay for this mess against our will? The people are speaking out loudly and clearly. It looks like Congress has sold us out to the elite corporate interests.
I don't care what party the Senator or Representative belongs to if you vote for a Wall Street Bailout that rewards the culprits and lays the brunt of the burden on the "taxpayer" you should be thrown out.
The American people are speaking out loud and clear. It's time to throw out the members of Congress who refuse to listen.
According to David Sirota:
Harvard's Ken Rogoff, a Former Federal Rerserve and IMF official, insists that the prospect of this bailout is, unto itself, taking a manageable problem and making it into a more intense crisis. He says that credit is frozen primarily because banks want to avoid dealing with other banks that might drive a hard bargain, and instead would rather wait for free money from the government. Without the prospect of that free money, Rogoff suggests that credit would probably begin moving again, if slowly.
Check out the Top Five [Economic] Reasons this Bailout won't work.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Journalist Hans Bennett has given me permission to post his OpEdNews Diary post here. You can see the original at: http://www.opednews.com/maxwrite/diarypage.php?did=9719
VIDEO interview with J. Patrick O'Connor at Philly City Hall, who released his book, The Framing of Mumia Abu-Jamal, earlier this year.
On May 1, 2008, the day of the book's release, AJN interviewed O'Connor at Philadelphia City Hall. The next day, The Framing of Mumia Abu-Jamal was featured in The NY Times: "Book Asserts Black Reporter Didn't Kill White Officer in '81."
Read our exclusive interview from April, focusing on the frame-up, Kenneth Freeman, the March 27 court ruling, and Frank Rizzo's legacy.
O’Connor argues that the actual shooter was Kenneth Freeman and he criticizes the media, who “bought into the prosecution’s story line early on and has never been able to see this case for what it is: a framing of an innocent and peace loving man.” For more on “The Framing of Mumia Abu-Jamal” we are featuring an excerpt, a previous interview, O’Connor’s review of “Murdered By Mumia,” and his response to the March 27 ruling.
**New articles on O'Connor's book by Carolina Saldaña, Linn Washington Jr., Hans Bennett, and radio shows Law and Disorder, Jazz and Justice, and KOWA**
J. Patrick O’Connor’s presentation at Baruch College, NYC
June 23, 2008
Good evening and thank you for coming.
Tonight I’m going to cover five areas of the Mumia Abu-Jamal case, beginning with my reasons for writing The Framing of Mumia Abu-Jamal. I’ll next discuss how the arrest set the framing in motion. Then look at how the physical evidence and early eyewitness statements pointed to a shooter other than Mumia. In Part 4 I’ll show how the prosecutor used perjured, coerced, and bribed testimony to get the death verdict. I’ll finish with an analysis of Mumia’s various legal appeals and where he stands now. At the conclusion, I’ll be happy to try to answers your questions about the case.
1. Why I wrote this book:
When Mumia was sentenced to death on July 3, 1982, for the murder of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner, I was an associate editor for TV Guide at its headquarters in nearby Radnor, Pennsylvania.
I had often heard Mumia giving reports on the local public radio station during the 20 months he was employed there. I was impressed with his ability to make listeners feel what he was describing – and with the compassion in his distinctive voice. He was, in a very real sense, the “voice of the voiceless.” I had great admiration for him.
In 1996 I watched the BBC documentary: Mumia Abu-Jamal: A Case for Reasonable Doubt on HBO and I began to develop some doubts about the fairness of his trial and its verdict.
When Amnesty International published an 84-page pamphlet in 2000 stating that it had determined that numerous aspects of Mumia’s case “clearly failed to meet minimum standards safeguarding the fairness of legal proceedings,” I began to research the case. By this time I was editor of the Internet site Crime Magazine (www.crimemagazine.com), and my intention was to write an article about the case for it.
Running throughout much of Mumia’s support is a subtext that his trial was unfair but that he probably killed Officer Faulkner in self-defense. As I read and re-read the available material on the case – transcripts from both his trial and Post-Conviction Relief Act hearings, newspaper accounts, and several books written about the case – I could see that his trial was a monumental miscarriage of justice, representing an extreme case of prosecutorial abuse and judicial bias.
What I could not tell until I was several years into my research was whether Mumia had actually killed Officer Faulkner. The officer had been in the process of violently arresting Mumia’s younger brother – Billy Cook – shortly before 4 a.m. in a “red-light” section of Center City Philadelphia when Mumia – moonlighting as a taxi driver – happened to be nearby and ran from a parking lot to assist his brother. When I was able to determine that the passenger in Billy Cook’s car had killed Officer Faulkner, I then set out to show what no other book about this case had ever attempted to reveal: Why and how Mumia was framed for Officer Faulkner’s killing.
What makes getting to the truth of this case so difficult for so many people who continue to believe that Mumia is guilty of murdering Officer Faulkner is that the prosecution built its case on perjured, bribed, and coerced testimony with a calculated disregard for what the actual evidence established.
2. How the arrest set the framing of Mumia Abu-Jamal in motion:
The framing of Mumia Abu-Jamal was set in place at the very outset when Inspector Alfonzo Giordano arrived within minutes to take control of the crime scene. Giordano formerly reported directly to George Fencl, the chief inspector of the Philadelphia Police Department’s Civil Defense Bureau – a special intelligence unit that had monitored Mumia since he joined the Philly chapter of the Black Panther Party at age 15. The civil defense bureau was also at the heart of the police department’s harassment of MOVE, the small, radical back-to-nature group that became the focal point of police brutality in the 1970s and 1980s. The civil defense bureau’s interest in Mumia intensified as his radio career took wing. At the local public radio station, Mumia became an outspoken critic of the Mayor Rizzo-dominated police department and one of the city’s few reporters to dare empathize with MOVE in its ongoing and epic-like battle with Rizzo and the police department.
Normal police procedure would have been for a homicide detective to assume control of the crime scene, but there would be nothing normal about this arrest. Giordano seized control, confronting Mumia in the paddy wagon by striking him in the forehead with a hard object – most likely his walkie-talkie – and cursing him with repeated racial epithets. It would be Giordano who claimed that Mumia told him that he dropped his gun in the street after he shot Faulkner. It would be Giordano who arranged at the scene for 21-year-old prostitute Cynthia White and a 23-year-old, white, felon by the name of Robert Chobert to identify Mumia as the shooter. Giordano and White would be the D.A. Office’s only witnesses at the preliminary hearing to hold Mumia over for trial where Giordano repeated this so-called “confession.” Although the police released this confession to the news media the day of Faulkner’s shooting, no jury would ever hear Giordano testify to it. In one of the most sinister aspects of Mumia’s case, the police department waited until the first working day after Mumia’s sentencing to “relieve” Giordano of his duties on what would prove to be well founded “suspicions of corruption.”
Giordano was as corrupt a police officer as one can imagine, even by Philadelphia standards. For years he had been extorting kickbacks – personally averaging $3,000 per month – from Center City prostitutes, pimps, and bar owners, which explains his early arrival at the crime scene. Four years after Mumia’s trial, Giordano pled guilty to tax evasion in connection with those payouts. His penalty: four years probation. In the wide-ranging FBI probe that nailed Giordano, numerous other high-ranking police officers also were convicted, including Deputy Police Commissioner James Martin, and John DeBenedetto, head of the Central Division, to which Faulkner was assigned. Martin, the acknowledged head of the Philadelphia Police Department’s elaborate extortion apparatus, was in charge of all major investigations, including Faulkner’s death.
Giordano didn’t even bother to have White go through the pretense of identifying Mumia in the paddy wagon as he did several other eyewitnesses. Instead, he coerced or enticed her at the scene to concoct an eyewitness account of Faulkner’s shooting and packed her off in a patrol car to give her statement to police detectives at the Roundhouse. White would be the only witness the D.A. had to claim to see Mumia holding a gun over a prone Faulkner.
3. How the physical evidence and early eyewitness statements pointed to a shooter other than Mumia:
From the outset, the investigation into the shooting death of Officer Faulkner was conducted with one goal in mind: to hang the crime on Mumia Abu-Jamal. There was no search for the truth, no attempt at providing the slain officer with the justice he deserved. The physical evidence at the crime scene and the initial witness statements – other than White’s – pointed to a shooter other than Mumia.
· Four eyewitnesses told police that they saw one or more black men running from the scene after hearing gunshots.
· The prosecution’s entire account of how Mumia himself came to be shot – that Officer Faulkner, after Mumia cowardly shot him in the back, was able somehow to whirl around, and while falling down backwards get off the shot that struck Mumia – was a flagrant misrepresentation of the actual evidence. The prosecution’s scenario was completely discredited at trial when the surgeon who operated on Mumia testified that the bullet struck him in the chest and traveled straight downward, lodging in his liver. What the evidence actually showed was that Faulkner – while standing on the sidewalk – shot Mumia as he approached from the street.
· Even Robert Chobert, the felon on probation Giordano had I.D. Mumia in the paddy wagon, said in his first statement that the shooter was in his mid-30s, was heavy-set, weighing 200 to 225 pounds, was 6 feet tall, and wore a gray colored dress shirt that had a green picture on the back. (Mumia was 27. He was 6 feet tall, but weighed a lean 170 pounds then. That night he wore a waist-length, red-quilted ski jacket with a vertical blue stripe crossing the front. There was no picture on it, front or back.
· Cab driver Robert Harkins is the only eyewitness who saw what actually happened to Faulkner. He was driving by the police car and Cook’s VW when he saw an officer grab a man. The man then spun the officer around and the officer went to the ground on his hands and knees, his back now facing the assailant. The assailant then shot the officer in the back, causing the officer to roll over on his back, and then the assailant – according to Harkins – fired two more shots point blank at the officer, one hitting him between the eyes, killing him instantly. When Harkins saw the officer go flat to the ground, he began fearing for his own life and sped away. Within a block he spotted a police paddy wagon and alerted the officers in it that a police officer had been shot.
Harkins’s account of the officer being thrown down on his hands and knees was borne out by the slit in Faulkner’s trousers at the knee and the denuding of his knee.
Harkins – like Chobert – described the assailant as being a little taller and heavier than the officer. Faulkner was 6 feet and weighed 200 pounds. Harkins said the assailant’s clothing was “not too dark and it wasn’t light.” His description fit Billy Cook’s burly street vendor associate, Kenneth Freeman, who was about 6 foot, but weighed over 200 pounds. Freeman that night wore a green army jacket – not too dark and it wasn’t light.
Mumia’s jury did not get to hear from Harkins because the prosecution did not want his testimony to put to rout the perjured testimony of Cynthia White and Robert Chobert.
· In Faulkner’s shirt pocket was a driver’s application bearing the name Arnold Howard. (When the prosecution turned over evidence to the defense, it concealed that the driver’s application had been found in Faulkner’s clothing, claiming it had been recovered from inside Cook’s VW.) Police rousted Howard from his house pre-dawn that morning and brought him in for questioning. He informed them that he had loaned his driver’s application to his friend, Kenneth Freeman. Police then brought Freeman in for questioning. Here, delivered to them, was Faulkner’s assailant. But the police did not want Freeman for this crime even after star prosecution witness Cynthia White twice picked him out of lineups that morning. Freeman was released without having to even bother to contact an attorney.
Five days later, in what the Philadelphia Inquirer reported as a probable police arson, Freeman’s vending stand was burnt to the ground at 3 a.m., effectively bankrupting him. Less than four years later, on the night the police firebombed the MOVE home on Osage Avenue – killing 11 MOVE members, including five children and burning down 60 other row houses in the process – Freeman’s dead body was found nude, gagged and bound – his hands cuffed behind his back – in an empty lot on Roosevelt Boulevard. Coincidence? The coroner listed the 31-year-old’s death as a heart attack and no investigation of his obvious murder was undertaken.
· Perhaps the most absurd claim – absurd as in unbelievable – that the crime-scene police made was that they didn’t conduct even the most elementary tests of Mumia’s gun to determine if it had been recently fired, by either feeling it for heat or smelling it. Neither, they claimed, did they run the most basic trace-metal test on Mumia’s hands to determine if he had fired his gun. What is probable is that they did conduct all three of these tests and each was negative.
· The 26-crime scene photos taken by freelance photographer Pedro Polakoff at the scene of Officer Faulkner’s killing represent another major indication of the Philadelphia Police Department and Philadelphia D.A.’s Office total disregard for what the actual crime-scene evidence revealed. Polakoff arrived at the crime scene 12 minutes after hearing of the shooting on his police scanner. When Polakoff offered the photos to the police and the D.A.’s Office in early 1982, neither wanted them. And for good reason. The photos, taken in total, tell a story neither the police nor the prosecution wanted anyone to know about.
For one thing, the photos depict a stunning nonchalance on the part of the police at the crime scene, particularly the crime scene of a felled fellow officer. Normal police protocol for securing a crime scene – instead of heightened – was abandoned. Polakoff would tell German author Michael Schiffmann 25 years later that it was the “most messed up crime scene I’ve ever seen,” because it was never secured and he, and many others, had free access to it.
The photos also show a disturbing pattern of evidence manipulation and mishandling of crucial forensic evidence within minutes of the police arriving at the scene.
In an interview after his photos were released in 2007, Polakoff said that when he first arrived at the scene the working theory of the police was that the shooter had fled. He said police were interviewing people to get information about the shooter’s description.
4. How the prosecutor used perjured and coerced testimony to get the death verdict:
It wasn’t enough for Prosecutor Joe McGill to try Abu-Jamal on the facts and evidence of the case. Time and again, from his pre-trial dealings through his summations at both the guilt and sentencing phases of the trial, he would go over the top in his effort to send Abu-Jamal to the electric chair.
· McGill knew there was another person in Billy Cook’s VW. He knew that another man – Arnold Howard – had loaned his driver’s application to Cook’s street-vendor partner, Kenneth Freeman, and that application was in Faulkner’s shirt pocket when the officer was killed. He most likely knew that Cynthia White had twice picked Freeman out of lineups hours after Faulkner’s death.
· At Billy Cook’s assault trial – held three months prior to Mumia’s trial – Cynthia White had testified – under questioning from McGill – about both the driver and a passenger in Cook’s VW getting out of the car as Faulkner approached. One of McGill’s first orders of business when White took the stand at Mumia’s trial was to get on record the exact opposite testimony. McGill began by asking her if anyone else was there besides the defendant, the police officer, and Billy Cook. Her answer was, “No.” Getting White to limit the people at the crime scene to only those three was an essential deception McGill needed to establish to counter any other eyewitness testimony regarding one or more black men fleeing the scene.
· McGill, apparently, had no ethical misgivings about using Cynthia White’s obviously perjured testimony. He knew that not one eyewitness had seen her at the scene. He also knew that in her original statement to police – given within an hour of Faulkner’s shooting – that she had Mumia running from the parking lot and from as far as 10 yards away firing four or five shots at Faulkner. After police arrested her again for prostitution three days after Faulkner’s death, she expanded her statement only to say that she saw Billy Cook strike Faulkner. Arrested again five days later, she finally got the message. She was now willing to alter her first two statements to comport with the actual evidence that Faulkner was shot at close range. He reward was to ply her trade with impunity for the six months leading up to Mumia’s trial. She admitted at Billy Cook’s assault trial that she had not been arrested since providing her third statement to police on December 17. Another perk the D.A.’s Office threw her way was to allow her live-in pimp to sign his own bail on a felony theft charge the month before Mumia came to trial.
· The same lack of ethical concern can be said of McGill’s use of Robert Chobert as a witness. Chobert had made the absurd claim in his statement that his taxi was parked directly behind Faulkner’s patrol car and that he saw it all from just feet away. Polakoff’s photos, by the way, belie this claim as did all other eyewitness testimony except for that of Cynthia White. At the time, Chobert was on felony probation and violating that parole by driving a taxi with a revoked driver’s license – revoked for two DUIs. McGill knew that it was nonsense for Chobert to claim that he would park directly behind any police car, but he needed him to bolster White’s less than credible standing as the key prosecution witness. So he used Chobert, simple as that. It didn’t seem to faze McGill that in Chobert’s original statement to police he had said the shooter had run 30 feet or so before collapsing. Mumia, of course, was found passed out just feet from Faulkner. In a subsequent statement to police, Chobert reduced the feet that Mumia ran to 10, still 10 feet more than was true.
· How desperate was the D.A.’s Office and the police to frame Mumia? One of the four witnesses who told police they saw one or more black men fleeing the scene immediately after the shooting was prostitute Veronica Jones. She would recant her original statement at trial after detectives visited her in her jail cell shortly before she was to testify at Mumia’s trial. At the time the 21-year-old Jones faced major felony charges for armed robbery, assault, and possession of an instrument of crime. She was looking at up to 15 years in prison. Her reward for cooperating turned out to be a sentence of five years’ probation on the felony charges against her. At Mumia’s Post-Conviction Relief Act hearing continuation in 1996, Jones bravely testified – under a threat of perjury charge from Judge Sabo – that Philadelphia detectives had coerced her into disavowing her claim about seeing two black men flee the crime scene. Sabo, of course, found her testimony not credible.
· The most credible witness the jury would hear from was a young accounting student – Dessie Hightower, whom the defense called to testify. Just as White had at Cook’s assault trial – Hightower would testify that Faulkner had approached the passenger side of the VW. A few minutes later, after hearing gunshots, Hightower observed someone running from the scene. The police, and presumably the prosecution, were so concerned with the exculpatory contents of his original statement that detectives re-interviewed him in the weeks to come for five hours on one occasion and then a week later came to his workplace and picked him for more questioning, some of it conducted with Hightower wired to a polygraph machine. Hightower would be the only witness the police polygraphed even though White and Chobert had so obviously altered their original statements. In addition, no polygraphs were administered to Officer Garry Bell and hospital security guard Priscilla Durham who concocted the damning “hospital confession” from Mumia.
· There was ample reason to polygraph both of them. For one thing, neither reported the so-called confession to the prosecution until over two months later when McGill himself interviewed them. More pointedly, the two officers who accompanied Mumia from the time he was placed in the paddy wagon until he went into surgery – and who never left his side during that interim – were Officers Gary Wakshul and Stephen Trombetta. In separate, signed statements given to detectives shortly after Mumia went into surgery, both Wakshul and Trombetta reported that Mumia had made no comments. Wakshul’s statement read, “During this time, the Negro male made no comments.”
When Mumia’s court-appointed attorney, Anthony Jackson, made an 11th hour attempt at Mumia’s trial to call Wakshul as a rebuttal witness to debunk Mumia’s alleged hospital confession, prosecutor McGill said he did not know where he was, although McGill knew that Wakshul was at home awaiting the possibility of being called to court to testify. The jury never got to hear from Wakshul or Trombetta – only from Bell and Durham. At trial, Bell testified he had no recall of even seeing Durham at the hospital.
5. Mumia’s failed appeals – “the Mumia exception” and his legal status now:
Mumia’s legal odyssey has been beset by the same sort of machinations as his arrest and trial. In 1989, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court turned down his first appeal even though one of his claims was almost the exact same claim that had persuaded the same court to grant Lawrence Baker a new trial in 1986. In that case, Commonwealth v. Baker, the court overturned Baker’s death sentence for first-degree murder on the grounds that the prosecutor improperly referenced the lengthy appeal process afforded those sentenced to death. That prosecutor – Joseph McGill – was the same prosecutor who used similar – almost identical – language in his summation during both the guilt and sentencing phases of Mumia’s trial. The judge who failed to strike the language in the Baker case was the same judge who presided at Mumia’s trial, Common Pleas Court Judge Albert F. Sabo.
The State Supreme Court ruled in Baker that the use of such language “minimize[ed] the jury’s sense of responsibility for a verdict of death.” When Mumia’s appeal included the very same issue, the court reversed its own precedent in the matter, denying the claim in a shocking unanimous decision.
A year later, in Commonwealth v. Beasley, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reinstated the death sentence of Leslie Beasley, but exerted its supervisory power to adopt a “per se rule precluding all remarks about the appellate process in all future trials.” This rule not only reinstated the Baker precedent but it ordered all prosecutors in the state to refrain once and for all from referencing the appellate process in summations to the jury. The court could have made this new rule retroactive to Mumia’s case, but did not.
As Amnesty International declared in its pamphlet published in 2000 about Mumia’s case, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s judicial scheming leave “the disturbing impression that the court invented a new standard of procedure to apply to one case only: that of Mumia Abu-Jamal,” Temple University journalism professor Linn Washington aptly dubs this and subsequent court decisions denying Mumia a new trial “the Mumia exception.”
Mumia’s Post-Conviction Relief Act hearing in 1995 was doomed from the beginning when Judge Sabo – Mumia’s original trial judge – would not recuse himself from the case and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court would not remove him for bias.
Mumia’s federal habeas corpus appeal – decided by Federal District Judge William Yohn in 2001 – should have resulted in at least an evidentiary hearing on Mumia’s Batson claim that the prosecutor unconstitutionally purged blacks from Mumia’s jury by using peremptory strikes to exclude 10 or 11 otherwise qualified black jurors from the jury pool. Judge Yohn’s error was egregious and could have been easily avoided if he had held one evidentiary hearing on that defense claim. But during the two years that Judge Yohn considered Mumia’s habeas appeal, he held no hearings.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit should have corrected that district court mistake by remanding Mumia’s case back to Judge Yohn to hold the evidentiary hearing on the Batson claim, but in another example of the “Mumia exception,” the court instead continued the long and tortured denial of Mumia’s right to a fair trail. In a 2 to 1 decision released on March 27 that reeks of politics and racism, the court ruled that Abu-Jamal had failed to meet his burden in providing a prima facie case. He failed, the majority wrote, because his attorneys at his Post-Conviction Relief Act hearing in 1995 neglected to elicit the prosecutor’s reasons for peremptorily removing 10 otherwise qualified blacks during jury selection.
In the decision written by Chief Judge Anthony Sirica, the court stated that] “Abu-Jamal had the opportunity to develop this evidence at the PCRA evidentiary hearing, but failed to do so. There may be instances where a prima facie case can be made without evidence of the strike rate and exclusion rate. But, in this case [i.e., “the Mumia exception” is in play], we cannot find the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling [denying Mumia’s Batson claim] unreasonable based on this incomplete record.”
In a nutshell, the majority denied Mumia’s Batson claim on a technicality of its own invention, not on its merits. It also broke with the sacrosanct stare decisis doctrine – the principle that the precedent decisions are to be followed by the courts – by ignoring its own previous opposite ruling in the Holloway v. Horn case of 2004 and the Brinson v. Vaughn case of 2005. It is a general maxim that when a point has been settled by decision, it forms a precedent which is not afterwards to be departed from. In a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in 1989 in a case entitled United States v. Washington, the decision stated that an appeal court’s panel is “bound by decisions of prior panels unless an en banc decision, Supreme Court decision, or subsequent legislation undermines those decisions.” None of those variables were in play when the Third Circuit Court majority ruled against Mumia’s Batson claim.
Judge Thomas Ambro’s dissent was sharp: “…I do not agree with them [the majority] that Mumia Abu-Jamal fails to meet the low bar for making a prima facie case under Batson. In holding otherwise, they raise the standard necessary to make out a prima facie case beyond what Batson calls for.”
In other words, the majority, in this case alone, has upped the ante required for making a Batson claim beyond what the U.S. Supreme Court stipulated. When ruling in Batson in 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court did not require that the racial composition of the entire jury pool be known before a Batson claim may be raised. The high court ruled that a defendant must show only “an inference” of prosecutorial discrimination in purging potential jurors. Prosecutor McGill’s using 10 or 11 of the 15 peremptory strikes he deployed is just such an inference – and an extremely strong one. McGill’s strike rate of over 66 percent against potential black jurors is in itself prima facie evidence of race discrimination. Prima facie is a Latin term meaning “at first view,” meaning the evidence being presented is presumed to be true unless disproved.
In commenting on Holloway v. Horn, a Batson-type case with striking similarities to Mumia’s claim, Judge Ambro – the lone Democrat-appointed judge on the three judge panel – demonstrated just how disingenuous the panel’s ruling against Mumia’s Batson claim was. “In Holloway, Judge Ambro wrote in his dissent, “we emphasized that ‘requiring the presentation of [a record detailing the race of the venire] simply to move past the first state – the prima facie stage – in the Batson analysis places an undue burden upon the defendant.’ There we found the strike rate – 11 of 12 peremptory strikes against black persons – satisfied the prima facie burden.” In Holloway, the Third Circuit ruled that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision denying Holloway’s Batson claim was “contrary to” and an “unreasonable application” of the Batson standard.
In fact, in rendering both its Holloway and Brinson decision, the Third Circuit specifically rejected the requirement that a petitioner develop a complete record of the jury pool. In making its ruling in Mumia’s appeal, it reversed itself to make the pretext of an incomplete jury record his fatal misstep. Basing its ruling against Abu-Jamal’s Batson claim on this invented pretext demonstrated how desperate the majority was to block Abu-Jamal’s Batson claim. What the majority was implying was that Abu-Jamal’s jury pool may well have consisted of 60 or 70 percent black people and that therefore the prosecutor’s using 66 percent of his strikes to oust potential black jurors was statistically normal and did not create a prima facie case of discrimination. This hypothesis is, of course, absurd on its face. Blacks have been underrepresented on Philadelphia juries for years – and remain so today. What was likely was that the jury pool at Abu-Jamal’s trial was at least 70 percent white.
The Third Circuit – if it had followed its own precedent – would have found the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling denying Abu-Jamal’s Batson claim “contrary to” and an “unreasonable application” of the Batson standard and remanded the case back to Federal District Court Judge Yohn to hold an evidentiary hearing to determine the prosecutor’s reasons for excluding the 10 potential black jurors he struck. If that hearing satisfied Judge Yohn that all of the prosecutor’s reasons for striking potential black jurors were race neutral, Mumia’s Batson claim would fail. If, conversely, that hearing revealed racial discrimination on the part of the prosecutor during jury selection – even if only concerning one potential juror – Judge Yohn would be compelled to order a new trial for Abu-Jamal.
Mumia is left with only two remedies to correct the flawed Third Circuit ruling. His first option is to request the Third Circuit to review its decision en banc where the entire panel of active judges sitting on the Third Circuit would conduct oral arguments anew. On April 9, the Third Circuit granted Abu-Jamal’s petition for Extension of Time to File for Rehearing En Banc, which allowed Mumia’s lead attorney, Robert Bryan of San Francisco, until May 27 to file.
According to Bryan, the basis of the petition he filed is that the Third Circuit’s “decision conflicts with a decision of the U.S. Supreme Court or of the court” – in this case the Third Circuit – “to which petition is addressed and consideration of the full court is therefore necessary to secure uniformity of the court’s decisions,” and “the proceeding involves one or more questions of exceptional importance.”
There is some likelihood that the Third Circuit might agree to meet en banc because the three-judge panel’s decision to deny Abu-Jamal’s Batson claim went against that court’s own well-established precedents in granting similar Batson claims in the past. However, the barrier to en banc deliberations is a high one: the majority of the active judges must vote to sit. In the case of the Third Circuit, there are 12 active judges eligible to vote, but three have already recused themselves from this particular politically charged case, meaning five of the remaining nine remaining judges would be needed to vote to go forward en banc. Considering that the decision denying Mumia’s Batson claim was written by the court’s chief judge and that the majority of active judges are Republican appointees – four of them by George W. Bush – Mumia has most probably had his one day before the Third Circuit. I can only hope I’m wrong about that.
Barring an en banc hearing by the Third Circuit, Mumia’s final option is to appeal the Third Circuit’s ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has on three previous occasions denied to take up his case. This time, though, there is a remote possibility that the high court might intervene in the case because the Third Circuit’s ruling created new law by placing new restrictions on a defendant’s ability to file a Batson claim. The Third Circuit, in effect, tampered with and undermined a long-established Supreme Court ruling. One clean, simple option for the Supreme Court would be to remand the case to federal district court for the Batson hearing the Third Circuit should have ordered.
Such a hearing would, in all probability except for “the Mumia exception,” lead to a new trial for Mumia. I pray that day will come.
Hans Bennett is a Philadelphia photojournalist mostly focusing on the movement to free Mumia Abu-Jamal and all political prisoners. An archive of his work is available at insubordination.blogspot.com and he is also co-founder of "Journalists for Mumia," created to challenge the long history of corporate media bias, whose website is: Abu-Jamal-News.com