October 2016 Archives

Bon Mots du Jour

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Solzhenitsyn once said, "Justice is conscience, not a personal conscience but the conscience of the whole of humanity."

Stupid American

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A good sized portion of the American electorate are as smart as a bag of ball peen hammers.

HIV was around earlier than thought

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New Study Shows HIV Epidemic Started Spreading in New York in 1970

by Maggie Fox

hiv2.jpgA new genetic study confirms theories that the global epidemic of HIV and AIDS started in New York around 1970, and it also clears the name of a gay flight attendant long vilified as being "Patient Zero."

Researchers got hold of frozen samples of blood taken from patients years before the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS was ever recognized, and teased out genetic material from the virus from that blood.

They use it to show that HIV was circulating widely during the 1970s, and certainly before people began noticing a "gay plague" in New York in the early 1980s.

"We can date the jump into the U.S. in about 1970 and 1971," Michael Worobey, an expert on the evolution of viruses at the University of Arizona, told reporters in a telephone briefing.

"HIV had spread to a large number of people many years before AIDS was noticed."

Their findings also suggest HIV moved from New York to San Francisco in about 1976, they report in the journal Nature.

Tom Hayden Dies at 76

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Tom Hayden, 1960s Anti-War Activist and Chicago 8 Defendant, Dies at 76

Famed '60s anti-war activist Tom Hayden, whose name became forever linked with the celebrated Chicago 8 trial, Vietnam War protests and his ex-wife actress Jane Fonda, has died. He was 76.

161024-tom-hayden-cr-0402_01_25526cf16fb79e52f6ebc0a7b580f813.nbcnews-ux-320-320.jpgHe passed away Sunday after a long illness, his wife Barbara Williams told The Associated Press. A statement released by his officer said he was "surrounded by his family" at the time.
Once denounced as a traitor by his detractors, Hayden overcame his past and won election to the California Assembly and Senate where he served for almost two decades as a progressive force on such issues as the environment and education. He was the only one of the radical Chicago 8 defendants to win such distinction in the mainstream political world.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti praised Hayden. "A political giant and dear friend has passed. Tom Hayden fought harder for what he believed than just about anyone I have known. RIP, Tom," Garcetti posted on Twitter.

Hayden wrote or edited 19 books, including "Reunion," a memoir of his path to protest and a rumination on the upheavals of the '60s.
Image: Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden
Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden in New York City circa 1979. Images Press / Getty Images

In 1968, he helped organize anti-war demonstrations during the Democratic National Convention in Chicago that turned violent and resulted in the notorious Chicago 7 trial. It began as the Chicago 8 but one defendant, Bobby Seale, ultimately received a separate trial.

After a circus-like trial, Hayden and three others were convicted of crossing state lines to incite riot. The convictions were later overturned, and an official report deemed the violence "a police riot." The trial became the subject of books, a play and Hayden's own reflections in "Voices of the Chicago 8: a Generation on Trial."

Thomas Emmet Hayden was born Dec. 11, 1939, in Royal Oak, Michigan, to middle-class parents. At Michigan, he took up political causes including the civil rights movement.
""I miss the '60s and I always will.""

He joined the fledgling Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), went freedom-riding during civil rights protests in the South and was beaten and briefly jailed in Mississippi and Georgia.

In 1965, Hayden made his first visit to North Vietnam with an unauthorized delegation.

In 1967, he returned to Hanoi with another group and was asked by North Vietnamese leaders to bring three prisoners of war back to the United States. With the prisoners suffering medical problems, the State Department thanked Hayden for his humanitarian action.

One particular event galvanized him -- the 1968 assassination of his friend, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, in Los Angeles.

"I think it confirmed for me that there was no future and brought out a lurking belief that this was a really violent country and that I was headed into apocalyptic times," he told The AP in 1988.
Image: Tom Hayden in 2007
Tom Hayden in 2007. Michael Buckner / Getty Images

In 1971, Hayden met Jane Fonda, a latecomer to the protest movement. They were married for 17 years and had a son, Troy.

Both Hayden and Fonda were demonized by the political right after she visited Vietnam and was photographed on a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun. It took many decades to minimize her "Hanoi Jane" moniker.

With heavy financial support from Fonda, Hayden plunged into California politics in the late 1970s. He formed the Campaign for Economic Democracy and was elected to the Assembly in 1982.

By the 1990s, he and Fonda were divorced, their relationship having withered as she returned to acting and built an exercise empire.

Hayden married actress Barbara Williams and they had a son, Liam.

Comment of the Day #400

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from the Attica article below came this comment from
Rusty Wilson

Has not America become one big Attica? "Poor people of color have been robbed of the most elemental forms of justice and basic constitutional rights. But the state, in the age of deindustrialization, has no intention of stopping there. These forms of social control, so familiar to poor people of color, will bear upon all of us. ...Today, any citizen who seriously resists the corporate state can expect the same response." To keep us all in our place they can declare anyone a "suspected terrorist" who can be indefinitely detained or killed if the President orders it(NDAA). They have destroyed the Bill Of Rights by replacing Habeas Corpus and Posse Comitatus with the Patriot Act and Homeland Security. National and international law is applied or ignored as it suits them. They have the prisons ready for anyone who should effectively object and they are fashioning the chains for the rest of us slaves on or off of their global corporate feudal plantation.

Our sociopathic rulers are monsters who use religion, racism, patriotism and love of the land to exploit while caring only about themselves. We owe them nothing and should treat them with the same contempt they hold for us. I have had a good life despite them because I knew, thanks to parents who taught me how to think for myself, that they were the enemy at a young age. To have as little to do with them as possible I've lead a very simple life unencumbered by a lot of possessions. If you don't play their games they can't play you. I owe nothing to them, the country they own, or to any of their corporations and institutions. I take pleasure in having spent my life subverting them in every way possible. Rebellion is freedom.

Hatred is a trap for the unwary that at best saps one's strength and at the worst turns one into what one hates. I cannot hate sick, addicted people. I do try to mitigate the misery done by the sociopaths that capitalism and class systems favor. I doubt that few here don't realize that the American Ward is one of the craziest ones on Asylum Earth. One can bury one's head in the sand or, for the sake of health and karma, fight the madmen running the asylum. You can't reason with them and you can't appeal to their hearts or souls which they don't have. Sociopaths gain positions of power because they're not hobbled by empathy or guilt. The only thing that they wish to discuss is power and control. They only understand commitment to self profit.

I care nothing for them or their rotten capitalist system. I try to be as kind as I can to everyone else and, as I even hate to kill a bug, they need not fear me. Besides, they are doing a good job by doing everything they can to speed up the crash of their rotten system. Everyone on the right and the left is predicting a coming big economic crash. There is also a growing sense out there that an alternate lifestyle tied to nature and nurture is the future.

So let them bring on their tyranny and prisons as it only hastens their fall as it has done to all previous empires. Even if their armies and police can keep order within their domains the real rot lies within their diseased selves.

I pity you and I also envy you if you are young as you will live through unprecedented change. May you build well from the ruins of the coming collapse and finally bring about the true democracy of a socialist world where "from each according to their ability, to each according to their need".

Racism can only exist in a class system. Abolishment of private property and private ownership of the means of production will produce a classless society where all are equal.

It is "the best of times and the worst of times".

The heart of the matter was the fear of blackness. - Tom Wicker

How Power Works

By Chris Hedges


Heather Ann Thompson's book "Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy" is a detailed study of the inner workings of America. The blueprint for social control employed before and after the crushing of the Attica revolt is the same blueprint used today to keep tens of millions of poor people, especially poor people of color, caged or living in miniature police states. Thompson meticulously documents the innumerable ways the state oppresses the poor by discrediting their voices, turning the press into a megaphone for government propaganda and lies, stoking the negative stereotypes of black people, exalting white supremacy, ruining the lives of people who speak the truth, manipulating the courts and law enforcement, and pressuring state witnesses to lie to obstruct justice. Her book elucidates not only the past but also the present, which, she concedes, is worse.

To see long excerpts from "Blood in the Water" at Google Books, click here. For a Democracy Now! interview with historian Heather Ann Thompson, click here. For a short biography of professor Thompson, click here. To see segments of a document on the Attica uprising provided through YouTube, click here and here.

"America by the early twenty-first century had, in disturbing ways, come to resemble America in the late nineteenth century," Thompson writes near the end of her book. "In 1800 the three-fifths clause gave white voters political power from a black population that was itself barred from voting, and after 2000 prison gerrymandering was doing exactly the same thing in numerous states across the country. After 1865, African American desires for equality and civil rights in the South following the American Civil War led whites to criminalize African American communities in new ways and then sent record numbers of blacks to prison in that region. Similarly, a dramatic spike in black incarceration followed the civil rights movement--a movement that epitomized Attica. From 1965 onward, black communities were increasingly criminalized, and by 2005, African Americans constituted 40 percent of the U.S. prison population while remaining less than 13 percent of its overall population. And just as businesses had profited from the increased number of Americans in penal facilities after 1870, so did they seek the labor of a growing captive prison population after 1970. In both centuries, white Americans had responded to black claims for freedom by beefing up, and making more punitive, the nation's criminal justice system."

On Sept. 9, 1971, prisoners at the Attica Correctional Facility in upstate New York rebelled in the face of intolerable conditions. They were sick of the racist-fueled violence of the white, rural guards; angry at poor medical care and the dearth of vocational and educational programs; underfed (the prison allocated only 63 cents a day to feed a prisoner); unhappy about their mail being censored, or destroyed if it was in Spanish; living in poorly ventilated cells with little or no heat or stifling heat; unable to buy basic commissary items on salaries that averaged 6 cents a day; and tired of being given only one bar of soap and one roll of toilet paper a month and allowed only one shower a week.

The uprising was not premeditated. It took place when prisoners, trapped inadvertently by guards in a tunnel that led to the yard, thought they were going to be given another beating by sadistic correction officers. The spontaneous uprising took place "because ordinary men, poor men, disenfranchised men, and men of color had simply had enough of being treated as less than human," Thompson writes.

Four hundred fifty prisoners had previously staged a peaceful sit-down strike in the prison's metal shop to protest wages that, as a witness later testified at a New York state hearing, were "so low that working at Attica [was] tantamount to slavery." Prisoners had formed committees and sent respectful letters to prison authorities asking them to address their concerns. The requests were largely ignored. Despite authorities' promises that there would be no retribution, those who organized the protests were put in isolation or transferred to other prisons. The callousness of the officials was especially unconscionable in light of the fact that the state had netted huge sums for sales of products made by the prisoners.

Where there's a Will...

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SNL 2nd debate skit

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Is This Election Making You Confuse Fact with Fiction? Google Can Help

by Alyssa Newcomb

Get ready for a reality check, courtesy of Google.

google icon.jpg

Get ready for a reality check, courtesy of Google.

The search giant is launching a new label in Google News, letting readers know if the story they're clicking on contains fact checks.
Image: Google logo
Google is adding "fact check" tags to its news articles, introducing the feature amid a U.S. presidential race roiled by heated disputes over the accuracy of information.

Get ready for a reality check, courtesy of Google.

The search giant is launching a new label in Google News, letting readers know if the story they're clicking on contains fact checks.
Image: Google logo
Google is adding "fact check" tags to its news articles, introducing the feature amid a U.S. presidential race roiled by heated disputes over the accuracy of information.

Get ready for a reality check, courtesy of Google.

The search giant is launching a new label in Google News, letting readers know if the story they're clicking on contains fact checks.
Image: Google logo
Google is adding "fact check" tags to its news articles, introducing the feature amid a U.S. presidential race roiled by heated disputes over the accuracy of information.

The search giant is launching a new label in Google News, letting readers know if the story they're clicking on contains fact checks.

The fact check label was already hard at work on Friday, with politics perched in the top spot on Google News.

Under a story about Hillary Clinton saying Donald Trump "stalked" her around the debate stage, Google included a link to a FactCheck.org article called "Trump's Misguided Debate Bias Claim."

Although the new feature doesn't explicitly tell you whether or not the information is indeed fact or fiction, it does at least help users follow a trail to the heart of the matter, thereby arming users (i.e., voters) with actual truths.

Richard Gingras, head of news at Google, said an algorithm determines whether an article fits the model for fact checking and it must also contain special markup language before it earns the "fact check" label.

"We've heard that many readers enjoy having easy access to a diverse range of content types," he wrote in a blog post.

The fact check feature is available in the expanded story box on news.google.com, iOS and Android apps.

Perhaps this gift from Google is what America needs most in this final run-up to Election Day.

Michelle Obama Exposes Trump

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Ken Thompson: Legal Hero Passes

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Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson's Death Leaves Exoneration Movement Mourning

by Jon Schuppe

Not long after he was elected district attorney for Brooklyn, New York, in 2013, Kenneth Thompson cold-called a Harvard law professor and former public defender to ask for help digging through old cases for people who had been wrongly convicted.

At first, the professor thought Thompson had made a mistake: Why would a prosecutor want to hire someone who made a living exposing the justice system's flaws?


But Professor Ronald Sullivan quickly realized that Thompson was not a typical DA. He wanted his Conviction Review Unit to find true justice, even if it meant unraveling old guilty verdicts, or exposing wrongdoing. That meant having an outsider run it.

Related: Jailed but Innocent: Record Number of People Exonerated in 2015

"It's the right thing to do, and I'm committed to doing it the right way," Sullivan recalled Thompson telling him before he took the job.

Sullivan recalled that conversation Monday as a sort of requiem.

The night before, Thompson had died of cancer, five days after announcing he was ill.

The prosecutor's rapid demise shocked the small community of lawyers, advocates and law enforcement officials who work to free the wrongly convicted in America, a movement in which Thompson had become a hero.

In fewer than three years in office, Thompson built his Conviction Review Unit into one of the country's best, focusing not on DNA cases but on decades-old killings that relied less on forensic testing than on shoe-leather investigative work: reading through old records, re-interviewing witnesses, looking for slip-ups or outright misconduct.

Thompson inherited the Conviction Review Unit (CRU) from Charles Hynes, who'd led the office for more than two decades and left under suspicion that he'd overseen a wave of negligent prosecutions. Much of that cloud related to work by a former homicide detective, Louis Scarcella.

Thompson, who campaigned as a reformer, took as his model a conviction integrity unit in Dallas led by a public defender. That successful unit focused on old DNA cases. Thompson went further, turning to cases from New York's most violent era, the 1980s and 1990s -- when drug-related killings overwhelmed authorities, who cleared many cases with single witnesses and obtained confessions from unaccompanied juveniles.

As Thompson's unit, led by Sullivan, began examining those cases, a bunch stood out as deeply flawed. The investigators uncovered evidence that undermined convictions of defendants who'd been sitting in prison for decades.

"That staunch focus on integrity even where there was no CSI silver bullet set Thompson apart as a national figure," said Brandon Garrett, a University of Virginia School of Law professor and author of "Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong."
Ken Thompson, Cyrus Vance Jr., Bill deBlasio
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson addresses a news conference on gun-related violence in New York's City Hall, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016. He is accompanied by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., left, and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.

In his first year in office, Thompson's unit exonerated 10 people who'd been wrongly convicted of murder. In 2015, they freed another seven innocent people, six of whom had been convicted of murder. And in the first eight months of 2016, the unit cleared six more, including three convicted of murder.

During that span, the CRU became the largest of its kind in the country, with 10 investigators and a million-dollar budget, and its record helped push the number of exonerations nationwide to record levels in 2015.

Conviction integrity units made a record 58 exonerations in 2015, more than a third of the 158 total exonerations that year, according to The National Registry of Exonerations.


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