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A Thought About Christopher Columbus

Was Christopher Columbus an explorer or a psychopath? Or was he both?

He was a rapist, murderer and slave trader. We know that from historic documents. He received money from a powerful woman in Spain and traveled the Atlantic Ocean in search of a shorter route to India and a shortcut to wealth. To rape, kill and imprison people in pursuit of this wealth was somehow acceptable to people in certain circles in Europe in those days. Something about “taming the wild” or some such nonsense.

When the Spanish ships commanded by an Italian landed in Hispaniola in 1492, the barbaric Europeans came into contact with the Taino people. They put them to work as slaves under threat of murder to search for gold. After a year or so of searching they decided to instead load slaves onto their ships to bring back to Spain. After four decades of slavery (with the blessing of the Catholic Church) over seven million Taino were murdered. By 1535, the Taino culture was no more.

Today we actually celebrate this genocide that has continued for more than five centuries. Though isn’t taught in our schools that way, that’s basically what has happened.

Manipulative people making fortunes on war, genocide, slavery and other types of oppression have been making the rules in our society for far too long. They control information to keep everyone in formation, but we have access to evidence of what these despicable criminals in the past did (as well as what today’s professional criminals do).

Why do we continue to pretend that they “discovered” people more civilized than they themselves were? The Taino people certainly wouldn’t call what the Europeans did discovery. Why do we still allow the manipulation of facts that serve only to continue a white-washing of history and to embolden continued imperialistic tendencies? A society needs to suppress this type of insidious behavior and admit the truth of its murderous past in order to become civilized.

Some day, if we survive the willful destruction across the planet of life as we know it, we may no longer need to ask such questions. In the meantime, why don’t we change the name of this “holiday” to Indigenous Rights Day or something else more appropriate and conducive to honesty?

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And Justice For All (Who Can Afford It)

Connie Hawkins passed away yesterday. I considered writing a little something about him. I was a big fan of “The Hawk” growing up for two reasons. He was the most spectacular basketball player I’d ever seen up to that point in my young life and word on the street in New York was that he’d been unfairly treated during a basketball point-shaving scandal involving high school players from NYC. He was kicked off his college team and banned from playing in the NBA. I read his autobiography, “Foul”, in high school and enjoyed it. This guy played the game “above the rim” before the legendary “Dr. J” and changed the way professional basketball is played.

However, I saw another story that is significantly more important to talk about.

It’s about John Thompson.

No, not the famous college basketball coach who stalked the sidelines for decades at Georgetown University. This is a much different story…

On January 17, 1985, police kicked in the door of a house in Louisiana and arrested 22 year old John Thompson in front of his girlfriend, two sons and grandmother for car jacking and murder. He had a co-defendant in the murder case, a man named Kevin Freeman.

In a newspaper article, he had this to say about Freeman, who had implicated him in the murder case when questioned by police:

“A few weeks earlier he had sold me a ring and a gun. It turned out that the ring belonged to the (murder) victim and the gun was the murder weapon.”

So not only did this man involve him in the crime, he had dumped evidence in his possession.

“My picture was on the news and a man called in to report that I looked like someone who had recently tried to rob his children. Suddenly, I was accused of that crime, too. I was tried for the robbery first. My lawyers never knew there was blood evidence at the scene and I was convicted based on the victim’s identification.”

“After that, my lawyers thought it was best if I didn’t testify at the murder trial. And now that I officially had a history of violent crime because of the robbery conviction, the prosecutors used it to get the death penalty.”

He was sentenced to 49 years in prison for a car jacking he didn’t commit. Then, he was convicted of a murder he didn’t commit and given the death penalty.

He spent fourteen years in a maximum security prison in Louisiana infamous for housing Black Panther Party members, Albert Woodfox, Herman Wallace and Robert King – the Angola Three. Woodfox spent 43 years in solitary confinement and Wallace 41. Robert King was slightly luckier. He only spent 32 years at Angola, 29 in sollitary confinement. This is not an institution known for justice or compassion. It was named for the African nation from which black men had been abducted by slave traders in order to work on a plantation on the site.

Back to John Thompson…

In 1999, a mere thirty days before he was to be executed, a private investigator hired by Mr. Thompson’s attorneys happened upon an amazing piece of evidence that would change everything. It was microfiche containing a laboratory report on the blood type of the person who had committed the car jacking. It was dated two days before the trial began.

It did not match John Thompson’s blood type.

Then it was discovered that a former assistant prosecutor on the case had admitted in a death bed confession to deliberately hiding this important evidence from the defense attorneys.

Additional tests confirmed that the perpetrator’s blood type did not match Mr. Thompson’s blood type or DNA and the car jacking conviction was overturned.

In 2002, the murder conviction was overturned as well. He was retried a year later and acquitted. It took about a half hour in deliberation for the jury to find him not guilty. He was awarded $14 million in damages by a jury in 2007 which would work out to $1 million for each year on death row. That’s fourteen years inside a barren cell with no privacy, no window, no family, no walk in the woods – nothing but fear, anger and time to thing about his impending execution.

But apparently that was too good for John Thompson.

At least that’s what five U.S. Supreme Court justices believed in 2011 when they ruled he wasn’t entitled to the money that fellow citizens believed he deserved. One of those five justices in Clarence Thomas, the former Monsanto attorney notorious for committing sexual harassment, but who made it to the highest court in the land anyway.

Justice: 1) the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness or moral rightness:
to uphold the justice of a cause.
2) rightfulness or lawfulness, as of a claim or title; justness of ground or reason:
to complain with justice.
3) the moral principle determining just conduct.

Five prosecutors were complicit in violating John Thompson’s constitutional rights by withholding evidence that could clear him, but Clarence Thomas and four other conservative justices felt differently. They decided that the defense had failed to show that the prosecutor’s office demonstrated a systematic withholding of exculpatory evidence.

“I don’t care about the money,” he wrote in a New York Times Op-Ed in 2011. “I just want to know why the prosecutors who hid evidence, sent me to prison for something I didn’t do and nearly had me killed are not in jail themselves.

“There were no ethics charges against them, no criminal charges, no one was fired and now, according to the Supreme Court, no one can be sued.”

John Thompson died yesterday at the age of 55.

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Lynne Stewart Birthday Memorial

To all my people in NYC, show support for civil rights hero, Lynne Stewart (and for everyone else, if you don’t know who she was, look it up…)

From the Free Mumia NYC website:

Join us as we celebrate Lynne Stewart’s birthday this coming Friday:

Friday, October 6th
6:30-10:00pm ~ Doors open @ 6:00pm
The Theater @ 80 St. Mark’s Place
80 St. Mark’s Place between 1st & 2nd Avenue, Manhattan.

FILM
Flavia Fontes: Lynne Stewart Documentary

PANELS:
What is a Political Prisoner ?
Anne Lamb New York Jericho, Sekou Odinga North East Political Prisoner Contingent, Mimi Rosenberg Building Bridges: WBAI Radio, Frank Velgara ProLibertad

Getting Our Political Prisoners On the National Agenda
Sara Flounders International Action Center, Bob Lederer queer anti-imperialist, Resistance Bklyn, Daniel McGowan Certain Days Collective, Assemblyman Charles Barron P.O.W.E.R., Ralph Poynter Lynne Stewart Organization

GUEST ARTISTS
Raging Grannies
Raymond Nat Turner ~ Jazz Poet
Janine Otis & Friends
The Poynter/Stewart Grandchildren “A dramatic interpretation”
Adiallo, Professor of Hip Hop
Lanar “Barry White Interpreter”
Serafina Brown
Dale Ortega Duo

Suggested donation at the door $5~$10
(After expenses, all proceeds go to political prisoners)
No one turned away!

Refreshments will be served
Compliments of: Ellen Kirshbaum, Dolores Cox, Abu’s Bakery and Nasser Ahmed

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Obedience

This is what happens when you obey:

And this is what happens when you don’t obey:

Any questions?

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A Conversation About Dreams And Reality

A guy sat next to me on a bench one day and started complaining about not being able to “make it” in this “dog eat dog” society. He leaned on his makeshift cart full of belongings and went on about how people with money treat people without money as if they are less than human and how laws are unequal depending on how much money you have. I agreed with his assessment and asked him about his dreams. He looked at me for a moment, then smiled and meticulously regaled me about how he wanted his life to be. He told me he wanted a high-salaried job in which he told people what to do, to live in a huge house with a beautiful wife, and a butler and maid to attend to their needs and how his children would go to private school. He’d have a large, comfortable office with a beautiful view and people would treat him with respect.

“In what field would you like to work”

“Oh, it doesn’t matter. Anything, as long as I make good money and don’t have to work hard.”

“But isn’t there something you’d enjoy doing for a living, something interesting, something that stimulates your mind or gives you a feeling of accomplishment?”

“Aaahh, that’s kids stuff. Those things don’t matter anymore. It’s all about money. Either you have it or you don’t. And if you don’t, your life will be hell. Let me tell you something: life is like a shit sandwich and the more bread you got the less shit you got to eat.”

He erupted with laughter at his cleverness, then continued with his dream life.

“I’d have a bunch of expensive cars in my gigantic garage and drive whichever one I want every day. I’d eat in expensive restaurants where celebrities hang out, go to concerts and comedy shows and football and hockey games, too. And I’d buy the best seats in the house. I’d have the biggest TV they sell, a satellite system, big speakers, expensive furniture and I’d take vacations whenever I want. I’d go to Hawaii and Europe, I’d take cruises to the Caribbean and spend a week or two on a nice beach drinking cocktails. I could take care of business over the phone telling people what to do. It would be great.”

“Sounds nice. What else would you do with your money? Who would you help?”

“What are you kidding me? I’d help myself. That’s the way it is in life. It’s every man for himself. Take care of #1. No one else will take care of me. Nobody helped me, why should I help anyone else? Let them get their own job. Then they could do what they want.”

“Yeah, but isn’t that the same type of behavior you were complaining about earlier? People with money not treating others with compassion?”

“Holy shit, do you got a lot to learn. This is a cold, cruel world where everyone looks out for himself. OK? That’s just the way it is. If you don’t learn that, you lose. There are winners in life and there are losers. If you spend too much time thinking about other people you get stepped on and left behind. It’s a rat race out there. You got to keep moving or get left in the gutter like roadkill.”

His anger was palpable. I felt an undercurrent of violence that seemed as if it could bubble up and consume him. “Yeah, but in a rat race, only the rats win. Negative traits are reinforced and you lose sight of what’s important in life. We need to transcend that type of thinking to do more than just survive.”

He laughed and scratched his head  as I tried to think of a good way of continuing this line of thought. He seemed steeped in cliches so I decided to go that route. “We have to think of others. You know what they say: what goes around, comes around. If you treat other people badly you’ll be treated badly. You reap what you sow.”

“Come on, man. Get away from me with that bullshit. That’s what they want you to think. That way they can take advantage of you and leave you in the dust. Believe me, man. Take care of yourself and live life to the fullest.”

He rolled up his shirt sleeve and showed me a tattoo. “YOLO, dude. You only live once. Make the most of it. If you don’t grab it first, someone else will.”

“OK, look. Didn’t you have dreams when you were growing up – things you wanted to do with your life?

“Of course I did. Everyone does. Then they grow up. When you become a man you put away childish things. Grow up, man. That’s your problem. You act like your still a kid with dreams and you want to change the world or some shit like that. The world don’t want to change. It is what it is and if you forget that – even for a little while – you pay the price. If you want to play, you gotta pay.”

I continued a bit longer trying to explain the concept of being at peace and how growing up, as he put it, seems to me to be a type of conditioning to obey the dominant culture and behave in a certain way to please the rulers.

“The dominant culture? What the hell does that even mean? Of course you want to be the dominant one. Otherwise you get ripped to pieces. The rulers? That’s who you want to be! Look at me. I’ve been living in the streets for 3 months because I lost my job and couldn’t find a new one. If you get a good job and don’t piss anyone off, you got it made. You keep your mouth shut, tell the boss what he wants to hear, don’t talk about politics, don’t try to change the world, then you can climb the ladder and have anything you want.”

The deadliest thing the rulers have done to the masses is to create a perpetual submission to the status quo. A certain segment of the population question nothing and will always be slaves while in that state of being. They have been taught to exist in a self-limiting state that prevents them from seeing the chains that bind their minds. A long enough time in this state causes the chains to encyst their hearts as well. Inspiration dies, will disintegrates. Obedience becomes a way of life. Rulers manufacture false hope and dole it out in digestible pieces which creates an addiction. The addiction is rooted in trying to live in a fantasy cleverly designed to appear real, but as Bill Hicks brilliantly put it: it’s just a ride. This is the epitome of evil: to sever people from the interconnectedness of the universe. The saddest part of all is that so many people are busy obediently waiting in line for another trip on the ride.

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Musings While On The Road

I’ve been on the road lately and started my trip with a flight from NYC to California. When I picked up the bag I checked at Kennedy Airport I was surprised to see the lock missing. When I opened the bag I found a card from the TSA explaining that in order “to protect you and your fellow passengers, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is required by law* to inspect all checked baggage.”

The law referred to is Section 110(b) of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001, 49 U.S.C. 44901(c)-(e).

While I understand the need for security measures on flights – considering how effectively we (in the U.S.) make enemies due to the brutal and unfair way we treat virtually every other nation on the planet – I didn’t understand why my bag wasn’t inspected in front of me. What if I had something in my luggage not allowed on airplanes that I wasn’t willing to part with? I should have been able to give it to a friend to leave in New York. Instead, I have to allow the Department of Homeland Security to confiscate it and just be content with losing it? I don’t see how it would be more efficient to check luggage in a secret place unseen by the public than right there in the terminal where it’s already been put on conveyor belts. What do TSA employees do with items they confiscate from the public they serve? Shouldn’t we be allowed to see what they do with our belongings?

I went online to see what items the Department of Homeland Security prohibits from being stored by U.S. citizens in luggage on domestic flights. Most seemed ridiculously obvious at first glance, such as weapons, tools and sharp objects. Then, I thought about what the danger of tools and sharp objects would be in the luggage compartment since passengers don’t have access to it. We aren’t able to grab these items and do anything with them onboard so why ban them in checked baggage?

One section in the list of banned items was medical equipment. That means that many disabled people are unable to travel on planes. That seems unfair. Apparently it isn’t profitable to take the time to check the safety of items for people in need.

Another item, or group of items, I noticed on the list was food. I didn’t see anything specific about precisely which food items are banned or if all food items are prohibited on flights. Being a person of “low income” status I always bring a few food items when I travel (which is almost always via train or bus). The prices charged at airports, train and bus stations, on Amtrak trains and at most places that sell food near transportation transfer points are obscene.

Now, the part that intrigued me. I had food items in my bag and they weren’t confiscated. I guess the inspector doesn’t like organic vegetable soup or brown sugar. The rest of my food items were in the backpack I brought onboard. The Himalayan salt and oregano oil underwent a chemical analysis right in front of me and I was questioned in detail about both items, but was allowed to keep them once it was determined they weren’t flammable or combustible.

If the soup and opened box of sugar were OK what were they looking for that wasn’t detected by a metal detector or X-ray?

I’m not thinking about anything deeply secret about these rules. I know that most of what the government and military do in the name of “democracy” and “protecting the homeland” is merely protecting the corporate interests of wealthy people. The state religion (demonology?) of Capitalism is murderous and suicidal so it must never be questioned. If people were to realize the wanton destruction of all life on the planet in the service of this system it would collapse like a house made of cards.

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Protect the profits, not the prophets…

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Help Requested For Political Prisoner Herman Bell After Brutal Attack By Prison Guards

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The following is from the Free Mumia NYC website:

Dear Friends,

We are asking people to write letters to Anthony Annucci, Commissioner of New York Dept. of Corrections, making the following demands (a sample letter follows that we would like you to use):

That Herman Bell be immediately given adequate medical screening and attention at an outside hospital;

That CO J Saunders and the other officers responsible for the beating be fired;

DROP THE CHARGES – That the ridiculous charges brought against Herman be dropped immediately

Mr. Bell should be returned at least to general population (he had been on the Honor Block at Great Meadow and despite his request was never given a reason for being moved to general population);

That Mr. Bell’s family visits be reinstated;

That Mr. Bell be moved to a facility where his family visiting can take place and be rescheduled at the earliest possible date.
_____________________________________

Anthony Annucci
Commissioner
Department of Corrections and Community Supervision
1220 Washington Ave
Albany, NY 12226

Dear Commissioner Annucci:

I am writing in concern and outrage over the unprovoked beating by Great Meadow C.F. correctional officers of Herman Bell, #79C0262.
On September 5th, with no provocation, correctional officers assaulted this widely respected elder. The recreation yard was being closed following a disturbance in which Herman had no part. He was told to line up with hands behind his back, which he did. When all other men on the yard were escorted through one door back into the prison, only Herman was escorted into a separate entrance and into a hallway with no one around except correctional officers—and with no surveillance cameras. In the hall, one officer began beating Herman in the face, breaking his glasses and knocking him to the floor. That guard continued to punch and kick Mr. Bell while he was on the ground. Around 5-6 additional guards arrived at this scene and joined in, punching and kicking Mr. Bell all over his body while he was on the ground. He was kneed in the chest and stomach, breaking two of his ribs. One guard then grabbed his head and slammed it into the ground three times, at which point Mr. Bell thought his life would be ending. He was excessively maced at close range all over his face and eyes, causing temporarily blindness and inability to breathe.

After being brought to the prison infirmary, Mr. Bell was not treated right away but was left alone for hours in an isolation cell. When staff finally looked in on him, he asked why he was there and was told he was accused of assaulting one of the officers. This charge is absurd.

The idea that this 69-year-old man would have hit an officer is ludicrous, as he was about to have a family visit (the first in two and a half years) and was beginning preparations for an appearance at the Board of Parole this coming February. People who had spoken to Herman on the phone the day before the incident attest to the fact that he was looking forward to the family visit with great anticipation, and that he was optimistic about his chances at the Board, given recent changes in parole regulations and the appointment of new commissioners. He had expressed similar thoughts and feelings to many of his friends and family. There is absolutely no doubt that he did not commit any infraction on September 5th; he also has not had a ticket in the past 20 years. He has never been accused of assaulting staff.

This brutal assault by Great Meadow guards constitutes not only staff abuse but also elder abuse. Mr. Bell will be 70 years of age in four months. He was badly injured in the beating. An X-ray, the only diagnostic screening he received for his injuries, revealed two cracked ribs, and he has a massive, swollen black eye and bruises all over his body. He has suffered severe headaches due to the beat-down, and the vision in his left eye – which remains completely red – is seriously impaired. Mr. Bell requires both a CT scan of the head and an ophthalmology examination.

I write to demand that you take these actions:

That Herman Bell be immediately given adequate medical screening and attention at an outside hospital;

That CO J Saunders and the other officers responsible for the beating be fired;

That the ridiculous charges brought against Herman be dropped immediately and that he be returned at least to general population (he had been on the Honor Block at Great Meadow and despite his request was never given a reason for being moved to general population);

That Mr. Bell’s family visits be reinstated;

That Mr. Bell be moved to a facility where his family visiting can take place and be rescheduled at the earliest possible date.

Sincerely,
NAME/ADDRESS