Thursday, March 22, 2018

Bozo The Clown Is Trending On Twitter But Not Stephon Clark? #BlackLivesMatter

Bozo the Clown is trending on twitter this morning, but not Stephon Clark, the black father killed by Sacramento police in his own backyard this week -- for holding a cell phone.

Bozo was played by an obscure actor who died in Boston yesterday at age 89.

Clark died at age 22 leaving behind two toddler sons. The Sacramento Police had a sheriff's department helicopter track a suspect after a 911 caller reported someone breaking car windows (this leads me to picture $1000 bills being whirled in the air by chopper blades as opposed to, say, feeding hungry children).

Two officers shot 20 times at the unarmed Clark and then delayed seeking medical help for him as he died.

Black lives do not matter when law enforcement takes them, because the officers involved almost always walk away from their trials exonerated. Their most common defense: they were scared.

To go back to the school shootings problem, I see there were two more this week, plus a spate of package bombs in Austin that killed black and brown people before the white bomber blew himself up yesterday. So a bunch of armed school personnel like the NRA is proposing will be less scared than trained police in the capital of California? I doubt it.

And if police are so scared, why don't they find a job more suited to their temperament?

And if it's about fear, why do they delay seeking medical attention while black men like Philando Castile, Michael BrownStephon Clark, Chance David Baker et al. bleed out in front of them?

Chance David Baker, shot and killed by police in Portland, Maine last year for carrying a BB gun (Maine is an open carry state).

Many people in the U.S. believe the law enforcement agencies that work for the public have been infiltrated by white supremacists.

It's the only explanation that makes much sense when trying to understand why the police in other wealthy countries don't gun down citizens like ours do. Or when trying to understand why the officer responsible for brutalizing the late Sandra Bland after pulling her over for failing to signal a lane change walked away from a perjury charge this week in a deal with authorities in Texas.

Other people would argue that law enforcement has always been racist and white supremacist in this country, and that the rise of cell phone cameras, body cam footage and social media to share it is mostly what has changed.

Which brings me full circle to the point about information sharing and white privilege owning the channels of communication. Bozo the Clown is literally of more interest to twitter users than a victim of police brutality. At least, so twitter would have us believe.

Those who want real information not produced by our corporate overlords to manufacture consent have come to rely on news curated by our contacts on social media platforms. We now know that all such platforms are entirely accessible to the Pentagon as the NSA has been given back-door access to facebook, twitter and phone networks like Verizon. This means the NSA doesn't have to ask twitter for information; it can search through twitter's user data on its own anytime it wants to do so.

Meanwhile there are people who make their living driving the trending topics lists seen by me and thee. If I'm too successful at seeing posts by activists I admire, facebook changes its algorithms to make sure I have to actively seek out and connect (again) with my preferred sources. I believe this is done to give our corporate overlords and the NSA even more useful information about who's connected with whom -- because otherwise my facebook friend list is a collection of people I went to second grade with, once lived next door to 50 years ago, and barely remember from college. Not super useful to the most sophisticated spying machine ever built.

Maybe it's my old journalism training but I vow to go to the end seeking real information from the best sources I can find.

I'll still use the nasty spy machines because that's where I find out about the tragic murder of Stephon Clark. May he rest in peace, and may his family find justice.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Resisting Corporate Government And Whipping The Vote Against Corporate Welfare In Maine

A Bath Iron Works executive tried to convince LD1781's sponsor that constituent "Bruce [Gagnon] is a one man band" back in December. There are now so many members of the band that I can no longer fit their names in a legible font on my cartoon. 

Tireless tax resister Ginny Schneider sent a great email to all the legislators she could reach via organizer Bob Klotz's "whip" list for opposing LD1781. You can, too, using this handy tool that looks up your state representative and senator and sends them a message you can customize. If you're out of state but want to send a message, the whip list has email addresses for you to use. There is also a toll-free message center: (800) 423-2900.

Ginny's email signature includes some quotes. This one is pertinent:

This is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people no longer. It is a government of corporations, by corporations, and for corporations. — U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes, 3/11/1888

A successful marijuana lobbyist in Maine, Paul Carrier, shared this tip:

Try to find a Republican member of the House that is willing to speak against LD1781 in caucus. Emphasize that many small business owners in Maine are struggling and could use tax relief -- why give it to a corporation that had $3.5 billion in free cash flow last year?

Meanwhile, organizer Jason Rawn has been doing his homework on corporate extortion at the state government level. He shared these articles with me and with many of the legislators on the whip list:

Corporations lead taxpayers to the shearing by Michael Hiltzik (Los Angeles Times, 1/5/14)

Several of us went on WERU yesterday for Amy Browne's Maine Currents show. Bruce Gagnon explained how effective the citizen lobbying effort against this bill has been. A senator told his constituent yesterday at the State House that he had never received as many message about any other issue or bill. Based on that, I'd say Bruce's hunger strike --which many of us joined by fasting for one or more days -- was a success. He had vowed to hold out until the bill came to a vote, but yesterday he ended his 37 day hunger strike in favor of his health.

Emails between the bill's sponsor Rep. Jennifer DeChant (D) of Bath and General Dynamics subsidiary Bath Iron Works vice president John Fitzgerald indicated both hoped the bill would be rushed through the legislature early in this session. Instead, the battle has dragged on for months while hundreds of letters opposing the bill have been sent to Maine newspapers; so many, they've stopped publishing them all.

The biggest argument for these bills is always the same: support the corporations who generate jobs. But BIW's largest union, S6, has declined to endorse the bill. Perhaps because GD has used past tax relief to further mechanize the shipyard and has cut thousands of jobs at BIW in recent years?

Bob Klotz spoke on WERU about how Democrats and Republicans in Maine can be seen to be drinking the "jobs, jobs, jobs Kool-Aid" and Bruce mentioned how former Democrat and legislator Ralph Chapman described the corporate money flowing to the leadership[sic] of both parties. Chapman explained that eaders who follow corporate directives are the ones promoted to chair the committees that send bills to the legislature.

Alex Nunes has been investigating and reporting on tax heists by General Dynamics in Rhode Island, Connecticut and Maine. He told Amy yesterday about stock buybacks indicating the vast wealth that weapons corporation GD holds, and an alarming development in the town of Bath. The police chief there has declined to comply with his Freedom of Access request for communications between BIW and the police around their collaborations to have protesters at the shipyard arrested during warship "christenings" recently. The chief cited an exception to Maine's FAA law: if it's planning about security around terrorism, he doesn't have to reveal it.

Jessica Stewart being arrested with eight of us at Bath Iron Works on April 1, 2017. Judge Daniel Billings ruled that our arrests for criminal trespass were wrong, and that "basically the police department is outsourced to BIW on these events. It was pretty clear that Lieutenant Savary was taking his direction [from] Mr. Cielinkski, [BIW’s chief of security]." The judge added, "And that’s not how this is supposed to work.” Jessica was subsequently arrested at Senator Susan Collins' Bangor office protesting Collins' vote for the federal tax bill that provides enormous cuts for wealthy corporations and individuals. Her trial for that arrest begins today in federal court today at 10am. FMI: Mainers for Accountable Leadership.

Pressed by Nunes, Chief Michael Fields denied that he was characterizing nonviolent protesters at BIW as terrorists. But, he still won't release the requested information. Hopefully Nunes will appeal the denial.

Violence is not actually as effective as its proponents would have you believe. Nonviolent direct action is powerful. And look how much we've accomplished by wielding pens (and radio ads) mightier than swords. Onward to defeat LD1781!