Hundreds of people from more than 18 states have converged at Creech Air Force Base for an event organized by the peace group CODEPINK coined #ShutDownCreech to protest the flight of killer drones from the base. Activists have created 100 tombstones with the names and ages of children murdered by US drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen. These will be displayed along the Drone Victim Memorial Highway, aka Route 95, that runs by Creech AFB. Dozens of veterans from all over the country (most members of Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War) are among the activists.
Our pressure is working! Obama wanted Fast Track for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) by the end of March but the largest coalition to ever work to oppose Fast Track has made that impossible. Through phone calls, emails, visits to members, rallies, bird-dogging and more, Congress is feeling the heat and struggling to get votes. We expect that Fast Track legislation won’t be introduced in the Senate until April. But the opposition is working hard too. President Obama is personally calling members of Congress and his staff are twisting arms and making promises to get votes for Fast Track. The Chamber of Commerce is getting ready to launch a $160 million ad campaign in favor of Fast Track. We’ve got to increase and maintain the pressure over the next few months or else members of Congress will cave in.
The 50th anniversary of the assassination of El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X) came and went on Feb. 21 of this year. And just as in other years when the date of Malcolm’s assassination came around, his name trended for a few hours and then the stifling silence rolled back in, erasing his name from the social media landscape almost as quickly as it had re-emerged. This year the occasion didn’t go completely unacknowledged, and some would even say that Malcolm was recognized in all the ways that mattered. There was massive coverage of the occasion right here at The Root, as well as other sites geared to black audiences. There was a CNN special that gave us a glimpse into the last moments of Malcolm’s life via the people closest to him that day. And the Shabazz Center organized a spectacular program in his honor—with a diversity in the ethnic, racial, religious and cultural DNA of the crowd in attendance that was a powerful reflection of the man himself.
It was New Year’s Day, January 1, 1966. My older sister, several of my younger siblings, a cousin and I had attended the annual Elmore County Emancipation Proclamation Celebration (the observance of Abraham Lincoln’s signing the proclamation freeing Blacks from slavery). The guest speaker for this occasion was a Birmingham civil rights preacher, Rev. Jesse Douglas, whose powerful message and melodious voice singing, “I told Jesus that it would be all right, if he changed my name,” had the audience on its feet for most of his sermon. Little did I know that he was preparing us for the most traumatic experience of our lives, which would take place in less than four hours. We went home, excitedly sharing with our parents the experience of the evening with this wonderful civil rights preacher.
It was billed as an investigation of the Ferguson Police Department. But a hard-hittingreport released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Justice also reads as an indictment of cities and towns across the St. Louis region. The report implicates at least four other municipalities in alleged misconduct or questionable behavior. And as the Justice Department itself acknowledged, many of the conditions described in the report could have been written about any number of the 90 municipalities in St. Louis County. “What’s listed in the report about Ferguson is a widespread practice,” said Thomas Harvey, executive director for the Arch City Defenders, a nonprofit legal advocacy organization that has brought attention to the municipal courts in St. Louis County over the past several months.
Diplomatic relations between Venezuela and the U.S. have just taken a big hit, with the government of Nicolas Maduro demanding that the American Embassy in Caracas reduce its staff by 80% and that U.S. visitors apply for visas. Most symbolically, Venezuela has now barred a number of U.S. officials from visiting, including George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. The backdrop to these political moves is a new crisis within Venezuela that has an old script: right-wing leaders plan a coup, with the U.S. deeply implicated; wealthy protesters take to the streets; and the Western media cover both stories with great sympathy while openly mocking the democratically elected government for attempting to defend itself. The latest crisis began when authorities acting on Maduro’s orders arrested Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma in mid-February.
We’ve been out of a contract now for close to nine months. In November of this last year, our membership voted in the largest turnout for an academic local union in Canadian history and voted overwhelmingly to endorse [strike (?)] action, which then led to the final hearing, in which negotiations should have taken place. And a limited number of dates was set by the university administration to negotiate a final agreement, which virtually all took place in the final week, the 11th hour, in which literally beyond the 11th hour the university administration put forward a deal that was endorsed by our negotiating team and then put forward to our membership at a meeting the next day. And at that meeting, where more than 1,000 people turned out for that meeting, again, more than 90 percent voted to reject that deal and to therefore be immediately on strike.
In his ruling, Judge Robert Mandelbaum found that the NYPD’s order to disperse was unlawful, and that by ordering protesters to leave the entire Wall Street area, police violated protesters’ First Amendment right to carry their message directly to its intended recipients: the Wall Street bankers who bankroll climate change. Defense Attorney Jonathan Wallace successfully argued that the Constitution protects citizen’s rights to express political speech within proximity to the target of the protest. In this case, the NYPD first prevented protesters from entering Wall Street before later ordering them to leave the area altogether. This pattern of policing proved to be the Prosecution’s undoing. Judge Mandelbaum also broke new ground by taking judicial notice that climate change is happening, is a serious problem, requires immediate action, and is caused by human activity.
The dinner plate-sized mushroom encircles its host tree like a bloated tumor. I’m about to snap a photo of the beast when something flickers in the corner of my eye. Faint, smoky wisps give off the impression of smoldering coals. At this very instant, the fungus is releasing billions of microscopic spores. I feel as though I’m witnessing one of nature’s secret acts, something an urbanite like me was only supposed to see on National Geographic. With a lush green canopy overhead, the hum of insects and warbles of tropical birds filling my ears, the moment would be Avatar-worthy, save one jarring detail: The air reeks of petroleum. That’s because I’m standing over a patch of blackened, crude-soaked ground.
The wages of the laborers who run your stores, who feed your customers who make you rich so that you can send your sons and daughters to private schools. The ones whose wages you have stolen, are crying out and their cries have been heard. They have reached the ears of our lord, our God. Although you live in the lap of luxury, God is about to flip the script. I’m here this evening as a result of a moral issue which is concerning the income gap between the rich corporate executives and the everyday laborers that make them rich. Today, everything is like it was in the days of James. Much of the wealth of this nation is still the result of exploitation and unfair compensation of the workers, especially in the fast-food industry.
On February 26th the Federal Communications Commission issued two decisions. One concerned net neutrality, the other municipal broadband. The first garnered by far the most attention, as it should. Net neutrality affects everyone and locks down a fundamental principle for Internet access. But as another presidential campaign looms the FCC decision on municipally owned broadband may offer more fertile ground for a vigorous political debate on the role of government and the scale of governance. The decision arose from a petition to the FCC by Chattanooga, Tennessee and Wilson, North Carolina asking it to overturn state laws that prevent them from extending their highly successful publicly owned networks to surrounding communities eager to connect. The FCC’s decision affects just those two states’ laws but will undoubtedly become a precedent to evaluate most of the other 17 states’ restrictions on municipal broadband.
Hardly anyone has heard of Cheryl LaFleur, but she is one of America’s most powerful government officials, entrusted with vast authority to oversee the electricity, oil and natural gas industries. She chairs the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), a tiny government agency with only 1,500 employees. Its budget is covered not by taxpayers but by the industries it regulates. Her sworn duties include making sure charges for electricity are always just and reasonable. That means suppliers should be reasonably compensated and customers should pay reasonable prices. But she has consistently ignored this responsibility. When presented with serial indicators of unjust prices, she puts on a blindfold and sits on her hands. In a Feb. 18 letter to six senators and 13 representatives, LaFleur demonstrated beyond any doubt her fealty to electricity companies and disregard for consumers.
The U.S. drone war across much of the Greater Middle East and parts of Africa is in crisis and not because civilians are dying or the target list for that war or the right to wage it just about anywhere on the planet are in question in Washington. Something far more basic is at stake: drone pilots are quitting in record numbers. There are roughly 1,000 such drone pilots, known in the trade as “18Xs,” working for the U.S. Air Force today. Another 180 pilots graduate annually from a training program that takes about a year to complete at Holloman and Randolph Air Force bases in, respectively, New Mexico and Texas. As it happens, in those same 12 months, about 240 trained pilots quit and the Air Force is at a loss to explain the phenomenon.
March 5 marks an important but oft-overlooked anniversary. On a winter’s day 245 years ago, in the year 1770, an angry crowd formed in Boston, then the capital of the Province of Massachusetts Bay. People were enraged by the extortionate taxes imposed by the British Parliament. In order to quell the public furor, the British sent troops, who violently quashed dissent. On that cold day, people had had enough. Word spread after a British private beat a young man with the butt of his musket. By late day, hundreds of Bostonians gathered, jeering the small crowd of redcoat soldiers arrayed with muskets loaded. The soldiers fired into the crowd, instantly killing Crispus Attucks and two others. Attucks was a man of African and Native American ancestry, and is considered the first casualty of the American Revolution.
Take traffic stops. Not only did police stop blacks at a rate greater than their share of the population—from 2012 to 2014, blacks were 67 percent of Ferguson residents but 85 percent of traffic stops—but they were twice as likely to search blacks than they were whites, who were 26 percent more likely to have actual contraband. You see the same dynamic with small, discretionary infractions. Ninety-five percent of tickets for jaywalking were against black residents, as were 94 percent of all “failure to comply” charges. Either black people were the only Ferguson citizens to jaywalk, or the department was targeting blacks for enforcement. On the rare occasion when police charged whites with these minor offenses, they were 68 percent more likely to have their cases dismissed.