Category Archives: Politics

A Righteous Stand

Righteous standI stand unified with the MEN of Pelican Bay in support of the strong stand they have taken to secure what Thomas Jefferson called, “inalienable rights” by the holding of mass hunger strikes.

Beginning on July 8, 2013 over 3000 MEN currently held in the California Department of Corrections refused to eat for 9 consecutive days in a effort to receive improved conditions.

The focal point of this movement is the Pelican Bay Security housing unit where MEN are tortured psychologically 23 hours a da by being confined to their cells.

You see, as a incarcerated MAN myself, I know what the public don’t care to know. Which is that prisons are harsh, hostile places designed to completely crush the souls in their charge. Places where most men and women leave out worse than when they arrived. Someone once remarked that most people misunderstand the design and constructions of prisons; they think the fences and towers are strictly to keep inmates in, while never realizing they are equally there to keep the people out. Because much of what’s done couldn’t stand up under the harsh glare of public scrutiny.

This is the sad state of Corrections within America. It’s also noted even within the same state some prison are much, much worse others. Such is the case with Pelican Bay. The first time I ever heard of Pelican Bay was when the scandal broke involving several guards who were running a gladiator school at the prison by placing rival gang members in the same cells and forcing them to fight while the guards watched and took bets.

In a place with this type of history it didn’t surprise me that conditions at the facility are so deplorable that a group of MEN have declared, ”Give me liberty or death.” According to the United States Constitution the people have the right to petition the government for redress. But when these people happen to be incarcerated MEN, the powers that be have taken an adverse position that seeks to escalate rather than deescalate the situation simply by fixing the problems.

Bureaucracy being bureaucracy, they have refused to meet any of the inmates five reasonable demands:

*  Eliminate group punishments for individual rule violations.

*  Abolish the debriefing policy

*  Comply with the 2006 recommendations of the US Commission
on Safety and Abuse in Prisons

*  Provide Adequate food

*  Expand and provide constructive programs and privileges
for indefinite SHU inmates.

The California department of corrections response to these reasonable demands and calls for human rights has been to petition the Federal Courts for permission to force-feed the 70 remaining inmates still striking in a effort to keep them from starving themselves to death. Wow! And to think this is what’s going on while most people sit around the water cooler discussing the latest occurrence on hit TV Show Scandal or Under the Dome. Men are starving themselves to death to secure their human rights while politicians debate how to stop Bashir Assad in Syria from violating the human rights of his people. The old people use to say, that’s the pot calling the kettle black. How can we concern ourselves with human rights abuses around the world without concerning our­selves with the human rights abuses right here at home. The media will show you on every station several times a day what Bashir Assad is doing to his people but want show you what your tax dollars doing to your own people. But that’s what those fences and towers are for to keep you out.

When the supposed enemy combatants held at the military base in Cuba went on hunger strikes to protest their conditions, our governments response was to petition the courts to force-feed these men. Now the same thing that was done to supposedly enemy combatants is being done to United States citizens in California – and you don’t have a problem with that, but have one with what’s going on in Syria, Egypt or elsewhere in the world. Something’s severely wrong with that.

Russian writer Feodor Dostoevsky said, “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.”

How civilized are we?

Same Old Soup

same old soupFor a brief moment try to imagine this. You are a poor Hispanic or African-American in any of the this nation’s high-crime, impoverished, predominately minority neighborhoods; Watts, South Central, 3rd Ward, Southside, Chicago, Brooklyn, New York. I’ll let you pick your own poison.

Now on top of being a poor racial minority let’s say you’re unemployed and like to hang around your neighborhood and maybe even smoke marijuana and drink alcohol to ease the pain of a constrained existence.

One day while hanging out at the local barbershop, corner store,  nightclub etc, a guy you kinda, sorta know-one of those friends of friend’s cousin’s baby-moma type of things. But this guy approaches you, it has been a while since you last saw this friend of a friend and by all appearances it looks like he’s doing well for himself. After shooting the breeze for a few, he asks you what you into, how you getting by. Since that’s all you doing is getting by, there really isn’t much to tell him. Before long he’s flashing his bankroll and telling you what he’s got going and asking if you’re interested. This is like asking a man lost in the middle of the Sahara desert in 115 degree temperatures if he would like some water. You think?

Still, this’ the streets so you got to keep your game face on. So you pretend to think about it for a while then say what the hell. Why not, you’re broke, unemployed with little future prospects – I mean what do you have to lose? And according to your new buddy from around the way he knows a guy who has a lick (robbery) set up. Supposedly there’s this cartel stash house with 20 to 30 kilos of cocaine plus a few hundred grand inside, but this friend of a friend’s friend needs some guys to do it. He can’t do it hisself because the people inside know him.

Wooed by the prospect of quick riches and a escape from the soul-killing poverty that has destroyed and is destroying nearly every person you know, you agree to go along. The only problem is you don’t have a gun, but your new friend waves you off, that’s no problem, and says he will hook you up with one, and since you don’t have a car he’ll even pick you up.

After a brief discussion a date and time is agreed upon and when the time comes, your new buddy who is going to help you get rich picks you up and drives you to the scene of the crime.

A few moments later you and your friend setting down the block from the alleged stash house supposedly casing it out. Eventually your friend reaches in the glove box and hands you a gun while asking you if you ready? You nod, never expecting that nod to cost you the next ten to twenty years of your life.

Before you can get out of the car large red-faced aggressive men in Dupont made Kevlar body armor welding American-made machine guns rush the car and snatch you out, “ATP”, they scream, while slamming you on the ground face first, “you’re under arrest.”

The scenario I just asked you to imagine might sound like a scene out of the latest Triple Crown urban novel, but it’s not. It’s a real life sting operation currently being conducted in these United States of America to unsuspecting potential criminals with the prospect of quick riches.

In these stings, the ATF who selects the alleged criminals to target begin the operation with a paid informant (the friend of friend flashing cash). This informer, paid snitch, legal criminal, introduces the target to an ATF agent who provides the transportation, weapons, along with the who, what, and where of the robbery. Nationwide more than 1,000 people have been duped by the federal government and subsequently incarcerated in these “stash-house” operations over the previous decade.

More likely than not this injustice would’ve continued to rob young minority men of their liberty and the general public would’ve been none the wiser, had US District judge Ruben Castillo not noticed a peculiar thing about all these cases. Of the 26 “stash-house” cases filed in the Chicago Federal courts, all of the defendants were either black or Hispanic.

Which is even more troubling when you consider how these cases begin. Unlike a normal criminal case that begins when a person breaks the law, with these cases the government selects the person, proposes the crime, and provides the means of carrying out the crime.

What they were doing was so blatant that it forces even a conservative Republican judge to conclude that the government was deliberately targeting blacks and Hispanics and to call for a full investigation.

So here it is once again in our supposedly best justice system in the world, in our post-racial no need for Affirmative Action, or voting laws society. Those entrusted with the power of life and death s well as liberty are caught red-anded breaking the laws they are sworn to uphold and targeting the most vulnerable among us .

“You tell me things have changed… and I say not enough.

You tell me justice for all… and I say all who can afford it.

But you tell me a Black man is President… and I say ride through the bedrocks of the ghetto and tell me what that has meant

No Justice…No Peace to me is evident

Upset you turn away…scream why can’t I see?

Oh but I do see that our ideals are myths

Myths propagated to make me behave…

and send me passively to my grave

Perhaps some would say even make me a slave”

While operation “stash-house” as reported in the USA Today, Friday August 2, 2013 edition might surprise some people. For most blacks and Hispanics living daily up under the heavy arm of the law, this story was nothing more than a mainstream expose of of their day to day reality.

Stolen Lives

One Million black men 

Not marching in D-C

Brought together by force,

legal farce

Victims of a common fate

Residents of America’s penal

institutions

Whitewashed plantations,

littered across the nation

No longer confined to the

South

Descendants of slaves

Confined to the big house

One million stolen lives

 

Reprinted from ”A Windowless Room” by Kenneth West, Trafford Press

 

 

 

 

I have a lot of respect for Houston defense attorney Dick DeGuerin. So much that he was one of the first attorneys I attempted to hire, but was unable to afford when I found myself facing the daunting prospect that later became a reality of being “railroaded” by Harris County.

Then I heard the “hero” defense DeGuerin successfully raised in the trial of ex-Houston police officer Andrew Blomberg, one of several Houston police officers eventually fired and charged with “official oppression” after administering a sever dose of, “street justice” to 15 year old Chad Holley back in March 2010. It just happened to get caught on tape, which was the only reason the officers were fired, or even prosecuted. Because as anyone with even a casual knowledge of Harris County will readily admit, police misconduct, judicial oppression and injustice are a way of life for the county’s black and brown population. So much so to where the average, poor African American or Hispanic is living a precarious existence not much different than a Jewish person’s in Germany during the rise of the Nazi party. I promise you, it’s that bad. They simply have no rights legal or otherwise that the powers that be, police, prosecutors, judges etc are bound to respect. None whatsoever.

So, when Dick DeGuerin proposed his “hero” defense, I couldn’t help but think about President Obama’s sudden election time support of gay marriage. And was reminded of the tenet that just like a politician the average defense lawyer, or DA will do or say anything to win a case. Even stooping to the level of calling a grown man and trained police officer caught on video stomping a 15 year old teenager a”hero”. What the !*??!!*

The not-guilty verdict came down with the resulting backlash of anger from Houston’s black community. (Note: The black masses in the United States of America have been mad so long that nobody really cares anymore. The official line is okay get mad, march, protest, wear T-Shirts, and for good measure we’ll even have a meeting with you. How about that? Would you like that? But next week, the nightstick will be right back upside your head. Why? Because you are a irrelevant population. When are you people going to learn that? No one cares about what concerns you.) But I for one wasn’t surprised that a all white jury of Blomberg’s middle class peers found him not guilty despite being caught on camera acting like the very thug his attorney tried to portray Chad Holley to be.

I mean, why should anyone be surprised? Was anyone surprised when a all white jury in Mississippi acquitted the two half-brothers of killing 14 year old Emmet Till for whistling at a white lady, after the brothers bragged about the crime?

Getting beyond the surface, let’s examine what took place from the reality of modern day America. Andrew Blomberg is a married, college-educated, white middle class man with enough disposable financial resources to hire arguably one of the best, if not the best criminal defense lawyers in the state. On top of this he has many supporters in the community and police force who packed the courtroom to add weight to the fact that he’s not the type of guy to normally do what he was caught on camera doing.

Now compare all that with the 15 year old victim who was a poor, black kid from a single parent home, burglary suspect and alleged gang member at the time of his assault by Houston Police officers. On top of that he’s dragging the weight of history with him and every stereotype and prejudice that the average white mind harbors about young black males.

Put another way in the eyes of this society Andrew Blomberg is a “somebody”, even a “hero” according to his attorney. While Chad Holley was and is viewed as a nobody. Just another unemployed, young black thug (code word for nigger) who was committing a crime and got what he deserved, a good old-fashioned butt whipping. Sure, in our political reality, never say what you really feel or think, no one in society will admit this – not the DA, defense lawyer, police officer, Blomberg, or his friends and family, but I would bet a small fortune that deep down, this is how they all really feel.

Undoubtedly, it was how the jury felt when they chose to acquit Blomberg.

Until people get real about what’s really going on with the police department and the criminal justice system – and how very little has really changed in the hearts and minds of the people of this country, despite the election of the nation’s first black president and all the post racial nonsense pundits like to sprout – men like Andrew Blomberg will continue to be “heroes” despite their actions to the contrary. While the Chad Holley’s and Trayvon Martin’s among us will remain endangered species under a official order as in Blomberg’s case, or unofficial as in Zimmerman’s to seek out and destroy where ever they may be.

No Justice. No Peace.

Stand Up And Be Counted, or Just Shut Up

“We are not comparing the President to the Almighty. We are comparing him to the alternative.” Vice-President Joe Biden


Read the Vice-President’s comment again and then think about it. Because that’s the heart of what the 2012 presidential election between incumbent Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney is all about.

While President Obama has proved to be far less of a miracle-worker than most people initially thought he was, he has made some significant positive changes. Changes that have had a tremendous effect on everyday people instead of simply benefitting the rich and powerful as the bulk of Bush and other Republican policies normally do. Which, if you ask me, is really what most Republicans and wealthy Americans are really upset about, the leveling of the playing field. Just for a moment, forget that nonsense about humans being basically altruistic and the few working for the greater good of the whole because it just isn’t a reality.

Ask yourself this, if your team is already winning, why on earth would you be interested in rewriting the rules of the game to allow other teams to be better able to compete against you? If you’re honest the truth is you wouldn’t want any type of change, but would simply be happy with the status quo.

Malcolm X said, “If your enemy is for it, be extremely wary of it.”

The fact that nearly every Republican has been staunchly opposed to virtually every policy that President Obama has put forth, regardless of how many Americans the policy would benefit. Should show you exactly whose interest the Republican party is concerned with, those of the rich, upper-class, and well- connected. A group that’s overwhelmingly white.

J.P. Morgan, one of the original “Robber Barons”, once told a reporter, “the public be damned.”
For over half a century, the Republican party has been saying the exact same thing to the average American:
“Go straight to hell.”
You lost your job and can’t pay your bills?
“Go to hell.”
Your employer doesn’t offer health care?
“Go to hell.”
The CEO of your publicly traded company made more than the company?
“Go to hell.”

But if you care about being able to get adequate health care should you ever need it, the choice is clear.

If you care about billionaires paying less in Federal taxes then their middle class secretaries, the choice is clear.

If you care about you or any one of your loved ones being able to earn a college degree from a decent college, even if Momma and Daddy don’t have a extra hundred grand laying around, the choice is clear.

If you care about the rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer and nobody giving a damn, the choice is clear.

If you care about having a president that represents the interest and concerns of everyday people and not just corporate Big Wigs like the former 200 million dollar net worth CEO of Bain Capital will do, the choice is clear.

If you care about what happens to you and your family, your community, city, state and nation then you will stand up and be counted-voteand let your voice be heard.

IF YOU DON’T THERE’S ONLY ONE OTHER THING TO DO – SHUT UP – AND ACCEPT WHATEVER HAPPENS GOOD OR BAD.

Because whether you participate in it or not, or even believe in it like Sam Cook sung, “A Change Is Gonna Come.”

It may not come in 4 years or even 8 for that matter, but a change is going to come, oh yes it is.

President Obama isn’t a perfect president but he has enough wisdom and humility to admit it, “I told you in 2008 that I wasn’t a perfect man, and I will never be a perfect president.” So even though he readily admits that he’s only human like the rest of us, I believed in President Obama. in 2008, and I still believe in him in 2012.

SO STAND UP AND BE COUNTED. VOTE FOR CHANGE, VOTE FOR OBAMA

The Breaking Point

“WHEN NOBODY LISTENS TO A COMPLAINT THAT APPEARS TO BE LEGITIMATE, WHEN NOBODY TRIES TO RECTIFY A BAD SITUATION, A VIOLENT ACT IS PERHAPS THE ONLY WAY LEFT TO FOCUS ATTENTION ON THE WRONG, AND HELP SOMETHING GET DONE ABOUT IT” — John Langone

When 23 year old Mohamed Merah went on his bloody Jihadist rampage in the French city of Toulouse that left seven people senselessly dead, three of them children, I wondered if this was how he felt? As if his legitimate grievances and the grievances of his people were continuing to go unheard. Before dying in a hail of gun fire at the hands of French special forces soldiers the young terrorist told a negotiator, ”you kill my brothers, now I’m killing you.”

While it’s probably impossible to pinpoint the exact motives for his attacks, righteous indignation, hatred of French society, or just youthful frustration – I can tell you exactly what is driving the protest that have erupted all across the country in the wake of the Trayvon Martin killing in Sanford, Florida by 28 year old George Zimmerman the trigger happy neighborhood watch captain.

Trayvon who was 17 years old and unarmed when he was gunned down insides of a gated community was killed for being black in a nice neighborhood which in the eyes of George Zimmerman automatically made him suspect.

In America we have DWB (Driving While Black).

Which will get you stopped and possibly ticketed on GP (General Principle).

WWB (Walking while Black).

Which will get you Id’ed and frisked.

And plain old BB (Being Black).

Which in Trayvon’s case got him a bullet in the chest.

Same thing with Emmet Till, Rodney King, Sean Bell.

But as the protest that have rocked this nation from one side to the other following Trayvon’s senseless killing attest.

Black people have reached a breaking point.

We are tired of being murdered by police.

Tired of being murdered by the George Zimmerman’s and Joe Horns of the world.

And tired of being gun down senselessly by each other. Enough is enough.

Like Mohamed Merah in France, the African-American community has reached a breaking point. A point were the pain of doing nothing is far greater than the pain associated with change, meaningful change.

The abolitionist and ex-slave Fredrick Douglass said, “Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of injustice and wrong that will be imposed on them.”

For too long that’s what the black community has been guilty of quietly submitting. Quietly submitting to our sisters and brothers being railroaded by the criminal justice system on trumped up charges, the same justice system that allowed George Zimmerman to walk away after killing a unarmed defenseless black teenager. We quietly submit to the constant assault and killing of black men young and old at the hand of the police. Quietly submit to one form of injustice after another.

Until now, finally the community has reached a breaking point. A point to where all 13.5 million of our voices young and old are saying a COLLECTIVE NO MORE.

NO MORE TRAYVON’S, SEAN BELLS OR RODNEY KINGS. NO MORE ANTHONY GRAVES’.

NO MORE INJUSTICE.

Martin Luther King said, “an injustice against one is an injustice against all.”

Which makes us all Trayvon Martin.

Racism or Freedom of Speech?

Freedom of Speech as guaranteed by the US constitution has long been a cherished right of most Americans, A*K*A the right to express yourself the way you feel, when you feel like it, with a few narrow exceptions of course. This right has been equally transferred to various other forms of non-oral communication including music, gestures, art etc.

For this reason a large portion of the negative commentary about the President along with the satirical drawings that seem to pop up like weeds in a untended garden everywhere you look are an example of Americans, especially white Americans, exercising their constitutional right to say what they feel about the President – just as many of us, myself included, did with the previous President.

However, the difference with the current political rhetoric and criticism from that of the past is that the criticism leveled at Obama often comes with a strong stereotypical or racial overtone, as the pictures above clearly illustrate. Another unique feature is that it tends to include the First Lady along with the couples’ two children. Prior to the last 3 years in which the nation has had its’ first black President, and first African-American family living in the White House who weren’t employees or servants, this was considered a political no-no. As there were never any satirical or controversial drawings of Laura Bush or her twin daughters; but evidently, when it comes to the Obamas the gloves have come off and political civility has gone out the window.

I wonder why?

A January 31, USA Today column by columnist DeWayne Wickman was further evidence of this current negative trend of individuals showing disrespect for the President and the office he holds. If you missed this latest act, it occurred when Arizona Governor Brewer (the same governor that passed the harshest immigration law in history that later had to be rejected by the US Justice dept. as it allowed any police officer to question any Hispanic about his or her immigration status) raised her voice and stuck her index finger in Obama’s face as he was deplaning Air Force One.

In most corners of the civilized world, people are taught that it is considered disrespectful to point your finger into anyone’s face. As a result, it’s a gesture rarely seen outside of a parent reprimanding a wayward child or an irate couple having a lovers’ spat. Due to its objectableness, the gesture is not even tolerated in the workplace. Take a second and imagine how you would feel if your boss or co-worker turned to you in anger and thrust his or her finger into your face screaming, “now you look here”. Safe to say you probably wouldn’t be too happy about it.

But if that wasn’t enough in itself, what if it was a subordinate doing the finger pointing at a superior? I’ll forgive you if your favorite move from SMACKDOWN suddenly popped into your head, but that’s essentially what Governor Brewer was to the President.

Once the governor’s inappropriate disrespectful behavior went viral, resulting in a firestorm of criticism. In an attempt to justify her actions, she fell back on the well worn racial stereotype of the helpless “white damsel in distress” being threatened by the proverbial ”bad nigger”, by claiming she felt threatened by President Obama.

Let me repeat that SHE SAID SHE FELT THREATENED BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

For a second, let’s forget that she was the one doing all the screaming and finger-pointing. Or that her tirade took place in front of two Arizona mayors, a detachment of Secret Service agents, the Presidential Press Corps, and a small group of well-wishers who had gathered on the tarmac.

Ignoring all of that, can anyone explain to me exactly how she felt threatened by the leader of “the free world”, a Harvard Educated lawyer, former college law professor, and married father in the presence of over 50 people in broad daylight?

If governor Brewer had made the same accusation against former President Bush, she would’ve been laughed out of Arizona. But when a white woman says she feels threatened by a black man, even if the black man just happens to be the President of the United States, our history won’t laugh it off.

In 1921, the Tulsa Race riots that destroyed over six hundred black on businesses and led to over eighty deaths was caused when a white woman said she felt threatened by a black elevator operator. The same incomprehensible nonsense got Matt Ingram a black farmer thrown in jail and charged with rape by leering. I REPEAT, RAPE BY LEERING after a 14 year-old white girl said Ingram looked at her in a frightening way.

The same twisted belief that all black men are out to harass, threaten and rape supposedly helpless white women has led to black lynchings and race riots through out America’s bloody history.

Still, here it’s 2012 and another white lady, this one supposedly educated is once again falling back on this outdated racial stereotype to justify her own misbehavior.

Why? For the same reason that many Americans feel it’s perfectly justifiable to depict the President and the first lady as a pair of glorified apes, or as a Muslim extremist couple, or to publicly joke about doing the President or his family harm. There remains a large percentage of individuals in this country that refuse to see black people as anything other than dangerous, brute beast, who are somehow less civilized or deserving than others, regardless of how many Civil Rights movements take place, or what the law says. In their book, it will always be, “if you white, you alright, if you black, get back”. Governor Brewer was well aware of these sentiments when she opened her mouth to say she felt threatened by Obama.

In Dred vs. Scott, the US Supreme Court Justice Roger B. Taney summed up the view of most of these individuals, governor Brewer included, when he said, “Blacks have for more than a century before been regarded as being of an inferior order…so far that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”

There it is.

Despite his education and eloquence.

Despite being elected by a majority of Americans to be their leader.

For Governor Brewer and all of her kind he is still a black man and as such “has no rights which the white man is bound to respect.”

Not even the right to be free of her finger wagging in his face.