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FBI Targets ‘Black Identity Extremists’ Despite Surge in White Supremacist Violence The Trump administration is coming dangerously close to labeling Black Lives Matter a terrorist group.

A leaked FBI counterterrorism memo claims that so-called black identity extremists pose a threat to law enforcement. That’s according to Foreign Policy magazine, which obtained the document written by the FBI’s Domestic Terrorism Analysis Unit. The memo was dated August 3, 2017—only days before the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where white supremacists, Ku Klux Klan members and neo-Nazis killed one anti-racist protester, Heather Heyer, and injured dozens more. But the report is not concerned with the violent threat of white supremacists. Instead, the memo reads: “The FBI assesses it is very likely Black Identity Extremist perceptions of police brutality against African Americans spurred an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement and will very likely serve as justification for such violence.” Civil liberties groups have slammed the FBI report, warning the “black identity extremists” designation threatens the rights of protesters with Black Lives Matter and other groups. Many have also compared the memo to the FBI’s covert COINTELPROprogram of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, which targeted the civil rights movement. We speak with Malkia Cyril, co-founder and executive director of the Center for Media Justice as well as a Black Lives Matter Bay Area activist.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript.Copymay not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We end today’s show by looking at a leaked FBIcounterterrorism memo which claims so-called black identity extremists pose a threat to law enforcement. That’s according to Foreign Policy magazine, which obtained the document written by the FBI’s Domestic Terrorism Analysis Unit. The memo was dated August 3rd, 2017, only days before the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where white supremacists, Ku Klux Klan members, neo-Nazis killed an anti-racist protester, Heather Heyer, injured dozens more. But the report is not concerned with the violent threat of white supremacists. Instead, the memo reads: “The FBI assesses it is very likely Black Identity Extremist (BIE) perceptions of police brutality against African Americans spurred an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement and will very likely serve as justification for such violence,” end-quote.

Civil liberties groups have slammed the FBI report, warning the “black identity extremists” designation threatens the rights of protesters with Black Lives Matter and other groups. Many have also compared the memo to the FBI’s covert COINTELPRO program of the ’50s through ’70s, which targeted the civil rights movement.

For more, we’re going to San Francisco, California, where we’re joined by Malkia Cyril. She’s the co-founder and executive director of the Center for Media Justice as well as a Black Lives Matter Bay Area activist.

Malkia, welcome back to Democracy Now! Can you talk about this report and what your assessment is of this term they have used, “black identity extremists”?

MALKIA CYRIL: Well, thanks for having me. You know, it’s a great question. What is a black identity extremist? I think we’re all trying to figure that out. Nobody knows, in part because it doesn’t exist. It’s a term fabricated by the FBI, constructed. And it has a history. I mean, for a very long time, for many decades in this country, probably centuries, the FBI has criminalized black dissent. We saw it through the COINTELPRO, the Counter Intelligence Program, as you mentioned, in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. We’re seeing it again today. This term, this idea of black extremism are coming up by the FBI, being used as a way to criminalize democratically protected speech and activity. It’s wrong, it’s erroneous, and it should be withdrawn.

AMY GOODMAN: So, what is your understanding of where it stands now?

MALKIA CYRIL: You know, right now, we don’t know. I mean, that’s part of the problem. You know, we need some information from the FBI. It’s clear that the FBIshould provide an unredacted description. What do they mean by a “black identity extremist”? Right now that description is pretty vague. It refers to some anti-white ideologies. It compares—you know, it talks about ideologies of black separatism. But it doesn’t have anything concrete. I mean, I think that’s part of the problem, that this is a categorization that has been constructed. The definition has no—makes no sense. And we need some more information from the FBI, so that we can actually respond effectively to this categorization.

AMY GOODMAN: It doesn’t refer to Black Lives Matter specifically.

MALKIA CYRIL: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about that, Malkia?

MALKIA CYRIL: Well, I mean, you know, it doesn’t refer to any specific organization, because the FBI, through its own guidelines, can’t really do that, number one. Number two, its guidelines say it can’t start investigations or investigate anyone solely on the basis of race. So what it’s done is it’s constructed, out of, you know, looking at six different cases over three years that have absolutely nothing to do with each other, of people who have committed violence against police officers. They have constructed a relationship between these cases that doesn’t exist, and then assigned some political ideology to those cases that doesn’t exist. So, anti-white feelings or sentiment doesn’t lead to police violence. Being angry as a black person in America about the—excuse me, doesn’t lead to violence against police. Being angry about police violence in America, police violence that is targeting largely people of color, also does not lead to violence against the police.

So, the bottom line here is that we have a rampant situation where white nationalism is on the rise. And yet the FBI has chosen to use its resources to construct and fabricate a threat that does not exist, instead of addressing a threat that does exist. So, whether it refers directly to Black Lives Matter as an organization or not, it’s clear this is an attempt to criminalize black dissent, which will have an outsized negative impact on those who are working in organizations like Black Lives Matter.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about another issue, about these allegations a Russian company spent more than $100,000 buying thousands of ads that sought to politicize the U.S. electorate ahead of the 2016 presidential election. Some of the allegations relate to Russian Facebook ads specifically referencing Black Lives Matter, targeting audiences in Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri.

MALKIA CYRIL: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, Google also says, quote, “suspected Russian agents,” unquote, paid for tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of political advertisements last year also aimed at swaying the 2016 presidential election. Your thoughts?

MALKIA CYRIL: First of all, we have to be really clear. This is not simply about what Russia has done. This is about how Russia and the right wing of the United States has collaborated to undermine democracy. So I want to be very clear. When we talk about, you know, Russia buying these ads or using these Facebook pages, so on and so forth, what we’re really talking about is a collusion, a collaboration between a global right wing. That’s really important. We need to be really clear about that, number one.

Number two, whether the ads or the Facebook pages seem to be pro- or anti-Black Lives Matter, the fact is that these pages and these ads were anti-black. That’s what’s clear. They were using anti-black tropes of black militancy to sway an election and undermine democracy. This is not new. The CIA has done this for decades. This is a tactic that has been used by the United States internationally for decades. We should not be surprised that it is being used now. And we need to think very carefully about what is going to happen over the next several years to undermine the next presidential election. And we need to get ready.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about a CNN report, a social media campaign calling itself “Blacktivist” and linked to the Russian government used both Facebook and Twitter in an apparent attempt to amplify racial tensions during the election. Again, they attribute it to two sources with knowledge of the matter talking to CNN. The Twitter account has been handed over to Congress. The Facebook account is expected to be handed over in the coming days, was the report. Your response to Blacktivist? Have you looked into this?

MALKIA CYRIL: You know, I’ve heard about it. I’ve actually seen the page in the past. You know, I spend a lot of time working on social media issues and looking at, you know, possibly fake pages that talk about black issues, trying to weed them out from pages that are related to real, on-the-ground organizations. And what we’ve seen is, interestingly, while this has come to light, you know, the Blacktivist page has come to light as being associated with this disinformation campaign, it’s clear that this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are dozens of fake pages on Facebook, dozens of fake accounts on Twitter, that claim to be related to some black movement, but in fact are not.

What we need to be is very careful making sure that the pages we follow, the accounts we follow, are actually connected to real organizations that are doing real work on the ground. And it’s hard to do. It means that Facebook and Twitter have to take real responsibility for this kind of disinformation on their site, really do something to protect the black activists who are working on their site, and differentiate between the fake pages and the real pages, because it has real consequences for black activism.

AMY GOODMAN: Malkia Cyril, for young people who may not be familiar with COINTELPRO—you certainly are—can you talk about your own family experience? We have just about a minute. But, you know, December 4th, 1969, Mark Clark and Fred Hampton—Fred Hampton, the head of the Black Panthers in Chicago, Illinois—are gunned down by police as they’re sleeping in bed. What the Counter Intelligence Program did and the effect, for example, on your family?

MALKIA CYRIL: My mother was a member of the Black Panther Party in New York. She ran the breakfast program in New York. And my mother was visited by the FBIjust weeks before she died in 2005. So this is not something—this harassment, the kind of FBI harassment of black activists, didn’t end in 1969. It didn’t end when COINTELPRO was, you know, exposed in 1971. It is continuing today. There are hundreds of political prisoners in our prison system—black political prisoners, Puerto Rican political prisoners, Native American political prisoners—because of the Counter Intelligence Program. And we need to make sure that never, ever happens in America again.

AMY GOODMAN: Malkia Cyril, thanks so much for taking this time with us, co-founder and executive director of the Center for Media Justice, also a Black Lives Matter activist.

MALKIA CYRIL: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: That does it for our broadcast today. Happy birthday to Miguel Nogueira! Happy belated birthday, Miguel.

By Amy Goodman / Democracy Now

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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6 critical ways Trump slashing Obamacare subsidies could impact you

President Trump’s promised rollback of Obamacare has officially begun. But what does it all mean? And will it affect you?

The federal government will cut billions of dollars in health-care subsidies to low-income households that were introduced under Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, the White House announced last week.

These $7 billion in “cost-sharing subsidies” are the payments the government makes to health insurance companies to offset the discounts on co-payments that low-income consumers have received under Obamacare. The subsidies repay health insurers for the higher cost of the “silver plan” through HealthCare.gov — the individual insurance marketplace operated by the federal government and set up under Barack Obama.

The cuts in subsidies may actually hit the middle class the most

Insurers already put insurance premiums up 20% this year in anticipation of the President’s decision to end these subsidies. However, in several states, including Indiana, insurance companies spread their rate increases, so middle-class people on individual plans will likely see a double-digit increase in their premiums next year.

“People who don’t qualify for premium subsidies for cost-sharing reductions, but are also in the individual market because they don’t have employer-sponsored coverage — early retirees who aren’t yet eligible for Medicare or higher-earning freelancers — will be negatively affected by higher premium costs,” Susan Nash, partner at Winston & Strawn LLP in Chicago, Ill.

More from CBS Marketwatch

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Proportional Representation Could Open Door to More Black Political Power

With the debate over gerrymandering making its way through the Supreme Court, and voter suppression very much a reality, the issue of fair representation for Black people remains in need of solutions. This as the Voting Rights Act has been defanged of its enforcement mechanisms, and the rights of Black voters remain compromised. These circumstances provide fertile ground for the concept of proportional representation.

What is proportional representation? Consider the current system of legislative representation in America, in which one person represents one district in a single-member winner-take-all electoral district based on geography. Known as a First Past The Post (FPTP) system, it is notorious for excluding racial minorities.  As Vox reported, although proportional representation may take various forms, there are a few popular proposals. For example, a party list system allocates seats based on the number of votes each party receives. This system has a track record of increasing inclusion of ethnic and racial minorities in South Africa, Indonesia and Namibia.

By contrast, in an alternative vote system each state is a single district with various members, rather than various districts each represented by one member. Voters rank the candidates for office, with a formula determining which of the candidates capture the fixed number of seats. Under mixed-member proportional (MMP) systems such as those in Germany and New Zealand, voters cast two votes: one for the party of their choice, and the second for the representative of their choice. When New Zealand adopted its system in 1996, the Maori members of Parliament doubled from 6 percent to 12 percent, and increased to 22 percent in 2014. Pacific Islander MPs increased from 3 percent of Parliament in 1996 to 6 percent in 2014, and Asian MPs grew from 1 percent to 4 percent.

Another system used in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Malta, local elections in Scotland and in the Australian Senate is the Single Transferable Vote (STV), which allows people to vote for a team of legislators rather by ranking them in order of preference. The voter places a number “1” next to their favorite candidate, a “2” next to their second-favorite candidate, and so on. STV eliminates the concerns over vote splitting or tactical voting, and increases the chances of electing independent candidates for office, as voters choose among candidates rather than parties.

Advocates of proportional representation note that it is a solution to gerrymandering, which is the drawing of legislative district boundaries for the benefit of one political party and to entrench its power. Both major political parties engage in the practice, but the Republicans have used it to their advantage over Democrats in recent years, including in 2016 races for the U.S. House and state house and assembly seats. Thanks to gerrymandering, Republicans control a majority of state houses and Congress. Although one forecast has the Democrats receiving 54 percent of the votes in the 2018 House election, they would win a mere 49 percent of the seats.

Nonwhite and women lawmakers are each less than 20 percent of Congress, while the Republican caucus in both the House and Senate is nearly exclusively white, and mostly white men, for that matter. The impact of gerrymandering — which allows politicians to select their voters rather than the other way around — dilutes nonwhite votes.

The effect of gerrymandering is evident in the South, where the sizable population of Black people is not reflected in the congressional delegations and state houses, in which the power of white conservative men is amplified, and Black voters have little to no political power. For example, non-Hispanic whites are 53 percent of the population of Georgia, while Blacks are 32 percent, Latinos are 9 percent, and Asians are 4 percent. Yet, of the 14 House districts in Georgia, white Republicans occupy 10 of these seats (71 percent), and Black Democrats hold the remaining four. Both of Georgia’s U.S. senators are white Republicans, and the state legislature is 72 percent white, 25 percent Black and 1 percent Latino.

In North Carolina, where whites are 63 percent of the state population, Blacks are 22 percent and Latinos 9 percent, only two of the state’s 13 members of Congress are Black, while 11 are white men, and 10 are white Republican men. Both U.S. senators are white Republicans. Whites are 79 percent of the state legislature, Blacks are 20 percent and Latinos 1 percent.

The population of Mississippi is 57 percent white and 38 percent Black, but its entire delegation of two senators and four members of Congress are white Republicans, except for one Black Democrat in the House. The state legislature is 71 percent white and 28 percent Black.

Alabama is two-thirds white and 27 percent Black, according to the Census, but six of its seven House members are white Republicans — the seventh is a Black woman and a Democrat — and its senators are white Republican men. Alabama’s state legislators are three-quarters white and 24 percent Black.

Under a system of proportional representation, Black voters would have more fair and equal representation in city councils, and state legislatures, Congress, and with an amendment to the Constitution, the Senate. James Madison advocated for proportional representation in the Senate, which small states opposed.

With a party list system, Black people in Alabama and North Carolina could each gain an additional seat in Congress, and increase their presence in their respective state assemblies. Proportional representation would transform politics in Georgia, a state which may very well be on its way to becoming a purple and eventually a blue state — and a majority-nonwhite state — due to demographic changes. Under a party list system, for example, Black Democratic voters, in coalition with Latinos, Asians and progressive whites, could increase their representation in Congress by at least two members, possibly even taking over half of the Georgia’s congressional delegation. Georgia could also gain its first Black U.S. senator if elections for the upper house were governed by proportional representation. Similarly, Blacks and other nonwhite Georgians could capture nearly half of the state legislature.

Mississippi is the blackest state in the U.S. in terms of its percentage of African-Americans, and also the most conservative state, where race and party affiliation are highly correlated. If the state adopted a party list system, the Black electorate could gain one additional member of Congress — possibly its first Black senator since Reconstruction — and would increase its number of combined seats in both houses of the state legislature from approximately 49 to 66, out of 174 total seats.

Harvard law professor Lani Guinier has long been a champion of the concept, which is found in most the world’s democracies and ensures the minority has at least some representation. Guinier has also maintained that proportional representation would encourage participation, genuine debate and inclusion — as opposed to tokenism —which race-conscious districts, she argues, do not achieve. Guinier was lambasted for her ideas, which Republicans and moderate Democrats dismissed in 1993 as a quota system when Bill Clinton torpedoed her nomination to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

While Guinier was characterized as a radical for her voting rights positions, the inadequacies of the current political system — which only magnifies white supremacist power — suggest the nation must consider a bold alternative. Although proportional representation is not a panacea for the myriad problems in U.S. government, its electoral system or its politics, it would prove responsive to the needs of the underrepresented, those such as Black voters who have been denied access to power and whose interests have not been served.

By David Love/AtlantaBlackStar

Posted by The NON-Conformist

JFK, CIA, Mafia and Fidel Castro – Trump can finally allow the truth to emerge from the shadows

Top secret files are due to be declassified this month in a move that could bring closure to one of the most traumatic events in US history – the assassination of President John F Kennedy.

A law was signed by former President George H.W. Bush in 1992 mandating the release of all documents related to Kennedy’s assassination within 25 years. Under the JFK Records Act of 1992, the National Archives has until 26 October of this year to disclose the remaining files relating to the assassination, unless President Trump determines that doing so would be harmful to national security. There are about 3,100 files still sealed by the National Archives.

Most right-thinking people would like to see the files released, to put an end to the constant speculation about the death of one of history’s most iconic politicians.

There is a smaller group, who enjoy vast, outlandish, unproven mysteries that would like to see the files remain locked up. This would allow the morbid supposition to continue.

Was there a conspiracy to kill the US President in 1963? No verifiable proof has been produced to contradict the official version of what happened on 22 November 1963, that lone gunman Lee Harvey Oswald shot President Kennedy, who was in an open top limousine, from a window of the Dallas Book Depository building. Oswald was a US Marines trained marksman, but still, it was some deadly shooting with a $21 mail-order rifle.

On 24 November, live on TV, police led Oswald through the basement of the Dallas Police Station. A large man with a fedora steps forward and shoots a single bullet into Oswald, and we hear the dying man shout in pain.

Of course, it is possible Jack Ruby was a madman who was overtaken by patriotic vengefulness. The fact that Ruby, a nightclub owner, had mob connections and police contacts shot an assassin so publicly immediately raised incredulity.

The Warren Commission was set up in the wake of the Dallas events by President Lyndon Johnson to investigate. Wanting to quickly calm a nation that was entering a period of unprecedented upheaval the commission promptly decided to ratify the lone gunman theory.

However, the House Select Committee on Assassinations, in 1978 concluded in a preliminary report that Kennedy was “probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy,” that may have involved multiple shooters and organized crime. The findings of both investigations have been contested.

It would require a vast conspiracy to cover-up the involvement of other parties.

The Kennedys were at the center of a web of bizarre and extra-legal alliances in the early sixties. The Cold War was in its fifteenth year by the time John Kennedy was elected President in 1960. Morbid fear of imminent nuclear war and congressional star chambers driven by the alcoholic Joe McCarthy (a close family friend of the Kennedys) had pushed the US establishment to a deep paranoia.

John Kennedy was the first Irish Catholic to be elected to the high office, and he ran his administration like any good Irish boy should – it was a family business. Brother Bobby was installed at the Justice Department. The two glamorous Democratic poster boys were, in fact, hardnosed Cold War warriors and rabid anti-Communists. Communist leader Fidel Castro had, in 1959, installed his regime in Cuba, 90 miles off Florida and the Kennedys immediately set about removing him, by any means necessary.

The plotting began with the Dwight Eisenhower government almost immediately after the 1959 revolution. In 1961, Cuban exiles, with the backing of Kennedy and the US government, tried to overthrow Castro in the Bay of Pigs debacle. The plan was to assassinate Fidel and Raúl Castro along with Che Guevara. On the day President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, an agent was sent on a mission to kill Castro.

Yet the plotting against Castro was carried out under four US presidents, and only Kennedy was murdered.

Previously released CIA files show the Agency was, incredibly, in league with the Mafia in plotting some of the 600 attempts on Castro’s life.

One file even indicates Robert Kennedy saying he was “angry” when he found out. But he didn’t call a halt to this unholy alliance.

Sam ‘Momo’ Giancana, who was later shot dead, was one of those gangsters involved in the Cuba plots. There were alleged connections between the Kennedy brothers’ father Joseph P Kennedy and mobsters including the notorious psychopath Giancana. Giancana also sharing mistress, Judith Exner, with JFK. Giancana and JFK shared a friendship with the legendary singer Frank Sinatra. I could go on, but I am already digressing significantly.

And that is the point, when you start on the Kennedys and all the dark enemies and glamorous friends and work through in the long, ghastly history of the CIA’s foreign conspiracies you will never get to an end. It is an endlessly fascinating cocktail of sex, death, politics, show business and Cold War espionage. Such narratives sold books and movies.

Yet another question that has been asked by historians is was there a cover-up?

And some things have emerged over the last couple of years that are extraordinary.

These facts are verifiable, and they heighten the anticipation of the potential 26 October file declassification. The usually secretive Central Intelligence Agency has, incredibly, conceded that there is a problem.

In 2013, the CIA’s in-house historian concluded that the spy agency had conducted a cover-up during the Warren Commission’s investigation in 1963 and 1964. The CIA hoped to keep the commission focused on “what the Agency believed was the ‘best truth’ — that Lee Harvey Oswald, for as yet undetermined motives, had acted alone in killing John Kennedy.

The secret report was written in 2013 and quietly declassified in 2014. The spy agency’s historian acknowledges what others were already convinced of: that the former CIA Director John McCone and other senior CIA officials were “complicit” in keeping “incendiary” information from the Warren Commission when it began its post-JFK assassination investigation.

According to the report by CIA historian David Robarge, McCone, who died in 1991, was at the heart of a “benign cover-up” at the spy agency, intended to keep the commission focused on the lone gunman theory.

Specifically, McCone withheld from the commission the existence of the CIA and Mafia plots to assassinate Castro. Without this information, the commission never even knew to ask the question of whether Oswald had accomplices in Cuba or elsewhere who wanted Kennedy dead in retaliation for the Castro plots.

And in August of this year, a further tranche of previously classified documents was released under the 1992 Bush law. And they too were tantalizing.

The files released by the National Archives show that, within a few years of Kennedy’s assassination, some in the CIA began to worry internally that the official story was wrong.

Key CIA officials were concerned by the mid-1970s that the Agency, the FBI, the Secret Service and the commission led by Chief Justice Earl Warren had not followed up on important clues about Oswald’s contact with foreign agents, including diplomats and spies for the Communist governments of Cuba and the Soviet Union, who might have been aware of his plans to kill Kennedy and even encouraged the plot.

There is no credible evidence cited in the documents released so far that Castro or other foreign leaders had any personal role in ordering Kennedy’s death.

But if the CIA is saying it believes there was a cover-up, and it thought this as early as the 1970s then those expecting something explosive to emerge this month could be right.

Of course, as always, politics are at play.

Republican President Donald Trump is being asked to open up a file on the murder of a dead Democratic President. And not just any President, but John Kennedy, the young, tragic, handsome leader whose family became the royalty of US politics.

Republicans may believe the Kennedys’ swimming in murky waters will come to taint their legacy.

I believe the American public needs to know the truth,” said Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., who along with Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, is leading a congressional effort to declassify thousands of documents and recordings compiled by the CIA and FBI.

It’s still hard for me to believe it was one man, but at the same time I have no proof that it wasn’t,” said Jones.

Trump, if the argument is compelling enough from the CIA and FBI, may still keep the files secret. But many of us want it to end, one way or another.

From RT

Posted by The NON-Conformist

The 2nd Amendment Says a Lot More Than the ‘Right to Bear Arms’—And the True History of It Will Blow Right-Wing Minds The Founding Fathers weren’t advocating for mass shootings.

Many politicians, especially those on the Right, pretend they are strictly adhering to the U.S. Constitution when they often are just making the founding document mean whatever they want – but perhaps nowhere is that as dangerous as with their make-believe Second Amendment.

In the wake of Sunday’s mass shooting in Las Vegas—where one individual firing from a high-rise hotel murdered 58 people and wounded more than 500 at a country music festival—we are told that the reason the United States can’t do anything to stop this sort of carnage is the Second Amendment’s “right to bear arms.”

“Gun rights” advocates insist that pretty much any gun control violates the design of the Constitution’s Framers and thus can’t be enacted no matter how many innocent people die.

Some on the Right, as well as some on the Left, even claim that the Founders, as revolutionaries themselves, wanted an armed population so the people could rebel against the Republic, which the U.S. Constitution created. But the Constitution’s Framers in 1787 and the authors of the Bill of Rights in the First Congress in 1789 had no such intent.

Arguably other individuals disconnected from the drafting of those documents may have harbored such radical attitudes (at least rhetorically), but the authors didn’t. In fact, their intent was the opposite.

The goal of the Second Amendment was to promote state militias for the maintenance of order at a time of political unrest, potential slave revolts and simmering hostilities with both European powers and Native Americans on the frontiers. Indeed, the amendment’s defined purpose was to achieve state “security” against disruptions to the country’s new republican form of government.

The Second Amendment reads: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

In other words, if read in context, it’s clear that the Second Amendment was enacted so each state would have the specific right to form “a well-regulated militia” to maintain “security,” i.e., to put down armed disorder and protect its citizens.

In the late Eighteenth Century, the meaning of “bearing” arms also referred to a citizen being part of a militia or army. It didn’t mean that an individual had the right to possess whatever number of high-capacity killing machines that he or she might want. Indeed, the most lethal weapon that early Americans owned was a slow-loading, single-fired musket or rifle.

No Anarchists

Further to the point, both the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were the work of the Federalists, who—at the time—counted James Madison among their ranks.

And whatever one thinks about the Federalists, who often are criticized as elitists, they were the principal constitutional Framers and the leaders of the First Congress. They constituted the early national establishment, people such as George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Gouverneur Morris and Madison.

The Federalists feared that their new creation, a constitutional republic in an age of monarchies, was threatened by the potential for violent chaos, which is what European aristocrats predicted for the new United States. Democracy was a largely untested concept that was believed likely to fall victim to demagoguery and factionalism.

So, the Framers sought a political system that reflected the will of the citizens (the House of Representatives) but within a framework that constrained public passions (the Senate and other checks and balances). In other words, the Constitution sought to channel political disputes into non-violent competition among various interests, not into armed rebellions against the government.

The Framers also recognized how fragile the nation’s independence was and how domestic rebellions could be exploited by European powers. Indeed, one of the crises that led to the Constitutional Convention in the summer of 1787 was the inability of the old system under the Articles of Confederation to put down Shays’s Rebellion in western Massachusetts in 1786-87. Washington saw the possible hand of British agents.

So, the Federalists were seeking a structure that would ensure “domestic Tranquility,” as they explained in the Constitution’s Preamble. They did not want endless civil strife.

The whole idea of the Constitution—with its mix of voting (at least by some white male citizens), elected and appointed representatives, and checks and balances—was to create a political structure that made violence unnecessary.

So, it should be obvious even without knowing all the history that the Framers weren’t encouraging violent uprisings against the Republic that they were founding. To the contrary, they characterized violence against the constitutional system as “treason” in Article III, Section 3. They also committed the federal government to protect each state from “domestic Violence,” in Article IV, Section 4.

Putting Down Rebellion

One of the first uses of the new state militias formed under the Second Amendment and the Militia Acts, which required able-bodied men to report for duty with their own muskets, was for President Washington to lead a federalized force of militiamen against the Whiskey Rebellion, a tax revolt in western Pennsylvania in 1794.

In the South, one of the principal reasons for a militia was to rally armed whites to put down slave uprisings. On the frontier, militias fought against Native Americans over land. Militias also were called up to fight the British in the War of 1812.

But you don’t have to like or dislike how the Second Amendment and the Militia Acts were used to recognize how the Framers intended these legislative provisions to be used.

The Second Amendment was meant to maintain public order, even an unjust order, rather than to empower the oppressed to take up arms against the government. That latter idea was a modern reinterpretation, a distortion of the history.

The revisionists who have transformed the meaning of the Second Amendment love to cite provocative comments by Thomas Jefferson, such as a quote from a 1787 letter criticizing the Constitution for its commander-in-chief provisions.

Jefferson argued that violence, like Shays’s Rebellion, should be welcomed. He wrote, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it’s [sic] natural manure.”

Jefferson, of course, was a world-class hypocrite who rarely believed what he was saying or writing. He crafted noble words, like “all men are created equal, … endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness,” but he was a major slaveholder who raped at least one and likely more slave girls and had slave boys whipped.

He also was never willing to risk his own blood as that “natural manure” of liberty. During the Revolutionary War when Benedict Arnold led a force of Loyalists against Richmond, Jefferson, who was then Virginia’s governor, fled the capital. Later, when British cavalry approached Charlottesville and his home of Monticello, Gov. Jefferson again took flight.

But more to the point, Jefferson was not a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, nor was he in the First Congress, which produced the Second Amendment. In other words, it’s a historical error to cite Jefferson in any way as speaking authoritatively about what the Framers intended with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. He was not directly involved in either.

A Collective Right

The real history of the Second Amendment was well understood both by citizens and courts in the generations after the Constitution and Bill of Rights were enacted. For most of the years of the Republic, the U.S. Supreme Court interpreted the Second Amendment as a collective right, allowing Americans to participate in a “well-regulated Militia,” not an individual right to buy the latest weaponry at a gun show or stockpile a military-style arsenal in the basement.

It’s true that many Americans owned a musket or rifle in those early years especially on the frontier, but regulations on munitions were still common in cities where storing of gunpowder, for instance, represented a threat to the public safety.

As the nation spread westward, so did common-sense restrictions on gun violence. Sheriffs in some of the wildest of Wild West towns enforced gun bans that today would prompt a recall election financed by the National Rifle Association.

However, in recent decades — understanding the power of narrative on the human imagination — a resurgent American Right (and some on the Left) rewrote the history of the Founding era, dispatching “researchers” to cherry-pick or fabricate quotes from Revolutionary War leaders to create politically convenient illusions. [See, for instance, Steven Krulik’s compilation of apocryphal or out-of-context gun quotes.]

That bogus history gave rise to the image of the Framers as wild-eyed radicals – Leon Trotskys of the Eighteenth Century – encouraging armed rebellion against their own Republic. Rather than people who believed in the rule of law and social order, the Framers were contorted into crazies who wanted citizens to be empowered to shoot American police, soldiers, elected representatives and government officials as agents of “tyranny.”

This false history was advanced particularly by the American Right in the last half of the Twentieth Century as a kind of neo-Confederate call to arms, with the goal of rallying whites into a near-insurrectionary fury particularly in the South but also in rural areas of the North and West.

In the 1950s and 1960s, some white Southerners fancied themselves an armed resistance against the tyrannical federal government as it enforced laws on racial integration and other supposed infringements on “states’ rights.” In the 1990s, armed “citizens militias” began to pop up in reaction to the election of Democrat Bill Clinton, culminating in the Oklahoma City bombing of 1994.

While designed primarily for the weak-minded, the Right’s faux Founding history also had an impact on right-wing “intellectuals” including Republican lawyers who worked their way up through the federal judiciary under Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, and now Donald Trump.

By 2008, these right-wing jurists held a majority on the U.S. Supreme Court and could thus overturn generations of legal precedents and declare that the Second Amendment established an individual right for Americans to own guns. Though even these five right-wing justices accepted society’s right to protect the general welfare of the population through some gun control, the Supreme Court’s ruling effectively “validated” the Right’s made-up history.

The ruling created a political dynamic to which even liberals in national politics — the likes of Barack Obama and Joe Biden — had to genuflect, the supposed Second Amendment right of Americans to parade around in public with guns on their hips and high-powered semi-automatic rifles slung over their shoulders.

What the Framers Wanted?

As guns-right activists struck down gun regulations in Congress and in statehouses across the nation, their dominant argument was that the Second Amendment offered no leeway for restrictions on gun ownership; it’s what the Framers wanted.

So, pretty much any unstable person could load up with a vast killing capacity and slouch off to a bar, to a work place, to a church, to a school or to a high-rise Las Vegas hotel and treat fellow Americans as targets in a real-life violent video game. Somehow, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness was overtaken by the “right” to own an AR-15 with a 30-or-100-bullet magazine.

When right-wing politicians talk about the Second Amendment now, they don’t even bother to include the preamble that explains the point of the amendment. The entire amendment is only 26 words. But the likes of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, find the preamble inconvenient because it would undercut their false storyline. So they just lop off the first 12 words.

Nor do they explain what the Framers meant by “bear arms.” The phrase reflected the reasoning in the Second Amendment’s preamble that the whole point was to create “well-regulated” state militias to maintain “security,” not to free up anybody with a beef to kill government officials or citizens of a disapproved race or creed or just random folks.

So, even after the massacre of 20 first-graders and six educators in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012, Fox News personality Andrew Napolitano declared: “The historical reality of the Second Amendment’s protection of the right to keep and bear arms is not that it protects the right to shoot deer. It protects the right to shoot tyrants, and it protects the right to shoot at them effectively, with the same instruments they would use upon us.”

At the time, the clear message from the Right was that armed Americans must confront the “tyrannical” Barack Obama, the twice-elected President of the United States (and the first African-American to hold that office) especially if he pressed ahead seeking common-sense gun restrictions. But Napolitano was simply wrong on the history.

Another dubious argument from the gun-rights lobby was that armed citizens could take down a gunman and thus stop a mass shooting before it became a full-fledged massacre.

But a gunfight among largely untrained civilians would likely add to the slaughter, not stop it. For instance, a 2012 mass shooting occurred in a darkened theater in Aurora, Colorado. Does anyone logically think that a bunch of terrified gun carriers exchanging fire in such a situation – not knowing who the original shooter was – would solve the problem?

And how about Sunday’s massacre in Las Vegas where the shooter positioned himself on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and fired down on a packed concert venue, a substantial distance away?

Assuming that the concertgoers were armed and tried to defend themselves, they would likely have ended up shooting other innocent concertgoers because of the initial confusion as to where the shooter was positioned. That would have further complicated the challenge to police who could have mistakenly opened fire on armed people in the crowd rather than locate and stop the original killer as he kept firing from his sniper’s perch. In other words, the horrific death toll could have been even higher.

To pretend that such carnage was the intent of the Constitution’s Framers, who wrote about achieving “domestic Tranquility,” or the goal of the First Congress, which drafted the Second Amendment to promote “the security of a free State,” is intellectually dishonest and a true threat to the lives of American citizens.

By Robert Parry/AlterNet

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Flint Water Crisis: 6th Michigan Official Charged with Involuntary Manslaughter

A special prosecutor on Monday, Oct. 9, filed additional charges against Michigan’s chief medical officer, accusing her of involuntary manslaughter and misconduct in office in the devastating Flint water crisis.

The announcement came during a court hearing for Dr. Eden Wells on other charges related to the contamination crisis, The Detroit News reported. Prosecutor Todd Flood of the state’s attorney general’s office said the new charges were spurred by “new revelations” stemming from testimony during a preliminary hearing last week against Heath and Human Services Director Nick Lyon, who’s also charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Flood declined to say what those revelations were, however.

“I really can’t get into the details of it, but I think we’d be derelict if we didn’t charge her,” Flood told reporters after the hearing. “Based on a new review of other documents and testimony that came out last week, we believe that discovery put us in this place.”

Five other people, including Lyon, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s drinking water chief Liane Shekter-Smith, Office of Drinking Water supervisor Stephen Busch, Flint’s former water department manager Howard Croft and ex-emergency manager Darnell Early, have been charged in connection to a deadly outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in Flint from 2014-15. The attorney general’s office said officials knew about the uptick in Legionnaire’s cases but didn’t notify the public until 2016.

In addition to manslaughter, Wells was also charged with obstruction of justice and making a false statement related to the outbreak, which was linked to 12 deaths and 79 illnesses, according to the newspaper. The obstruction charge carries a sentence of up to two years  in prison while manslaughter could result in a 15-year prison stint and a $7,500 fine.

The Legionnaires probe is part of the larger investigation into how Flint’s water supply became tainted after the city began drawing water from the Flint River in April 2014. Many have blamed the outbreak on the water supply switch, as lead from old pipes leached into the water supply and sickened thousands.

Wells’ next hearing has been rescheduled for Nov. 6.

By Tanasia Kenney/AtlantaBlackStar

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Exhuming William Borah

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.
Dwight D. Eisenhower

Stephen Paddock’s brother called him “just a guy”, and indeed he was. His well-planned, perfectly orchestrated antics in Las Vegas were really nothing out of the ordinary. Another broken record for Guinness, he simply raised the bar for the next aspiring civilian mass-murderer on U.S. soil, and pushed the privatization of war to a whole new level. No surprises here. What else would be expected from the most warlike Empire in history? Welcome to The United States of America. We’ve been perfecting war for profit for more than 241 years now. Rough figures I’ve compiled indicate that the U.S. Military has been busy on battlefields for a total of over 460 years, fighting somewhere in the neighborhood of 106 separate wars. Obviously there’s been considerable overlap, lots of simultaneous fighting, and very little down time.

Through the end of the nineteenth century, the U.S.A. busied itself with nation-building. There were millions of inconvenient Indigenous impediments to eliminate, and covetous European countries to conquer. Manifest Destiny required rivers of blood. From 1900 until present day, with most borders firmly established, the U.S. Military has busied itself with the tremendous task of controlling world resources, managing trade, and taming rogue nations who sought to play outside the established rules of what would become the world’s most powerful and feared superpower by mid-twentieth century. For Empire’s citizens, war is, and has always been the norm. Just business as usual. We are assured that our bravest and best in the world military fights our battles so we can enjoy our freedom. Little children learn to stand in reverence, pledge allegiance to the Stars and Stripes, and aspire to wear the uniform of the beloved fighting man. Their fondest dreams include firing the next generation of assault rifle at some, yet to be determined, enemy. Toy manufacturers have long made those dreams come true with authentic plastic replicas, complete with everything but real bullets, blood, and guts.

If “Happiness is a warm gun.” as the Beatles told us, tongues in cheeks, U.S. citizens must have about the happiest trigger-fingers on earth. With the N.R.A. owning the souls and reelection hopes of nearly every U.S. Senator and Congressman, talk of gun control never takes a serious turn. The most we can expect from our lawmakers is a basket load of bogus prayers and crocodile tears. Every time another aspiring mass-murderer takes to the streets, self-proclaimed Liberal voices meekly propose Band-Aid fixes. Mandatory gun registration, assault weapon bans, closing the gun show loophole, no open carry, background checks, and on, and on, and all I’m hearing is blah-fucking-blah. And why? Because every human being on earth is capable of murder, and guns are the easiest, most efficient means to kill. Each one of us teeters on the breaking point. Some much closer than others. I decided at a very young age, never to allow guns in my house, because if I had access to them, I’d surely be wasting away in prison by now. Case in point: I can think of nearly 600 people in Washington, D.C. alone, without whom this country and the planet would be better off. Too bad Paddock wasn’t about 2400 miles east of Vegas when he snapped, went off his rocker, and rat-a-tat-tatted his way into history.

The Las Vegas Massacre was nothing special. In Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, similar violence against a civilian population would barely make the news. Ours is a violent society. We think nothing of bombing foreign humans into oblivion. Unquestioningly we watch as our leaders send the U.S. Military into combat zones across the earth, creating chaos wherever it goes. We thank those who wear the uniform of death for their service. We love having the baddest, meanest armed force in history, and our violent mindset spills easily and naturally into our everyday lives. Americans love their guns. They love the power, they embrace their collections of steel phalli, and if you even suggest disarmament, they’ll blow your sorry ass into next week. U.S. citizens won’t voluntarily buy into any form of gun control, for any reason, any time in the foreseeable future, no matter how many of their friends, neighbors, and relatives are slaughtered. Savagery is embedded in the National Genome.

There will be no meaningful domestic gun control until the day we eliminate war as a means for settling disputes, gaining new national boundaries, and controlling foreign national resources. Which brings us to US. Senator William Edgar Borah. Idaho elected Borah to office in 1907, and kept him there until his death in 1940. The highest mountain in the state is named Mount Borah, and Senator Borah’s ideas may yet help mankind find a high point in history. In 1923, still haunted by the carnage of World War I, Senator Borah introduced a resolution in the Senate, which announced and defined the desire of The United States to abandon the war system in favor of strict adherence to world law. The following is an excerpt from The Borah Resolution:

…be it resolved, that it is the view of the Senate of The United States that war between nations should be outlawed as an institution or means for the settlement of international controversies by making it a public crime under the law of nations and that every nation should be encouraged by solemn agreement or treaty to bind itself to indict and punish its own international war breeders or instigators and war profiteers under powers similar to those conferred upon our Congress with the power to define and punish offenses against the law of nations; And be it resolved further that a code of international law of peace based upon the outlawing of war and on the principle of equality and justice between all nations, amplified and expanded and adapted and brought down to date should be created and adopted.

Stephen Paddock was just a guy. Like your neighbor, your friend, your brother. We won’t stop the next escapade by requiring registration, background checks, or limiting the size of the tools of the trade. The terror of mass murder is the direct result of the acceptance of war. The United States of America is a runaway train, loaded to overflowing with atomic bombs, bunker-busters, cluster bombs, landmines, tanks, fighter jets, missiles, rockets, and munitions of every caliber, shape, and size. It is on a collision course with all the hopes and dreams of our children, and has trashed any semblance of freedom, safety, or happiness anywhere on earth with the endless specter of war.

I’ve climbed countless mountains in my lifetime, but Mount Borah presents by far the greatest challenge. The actual mountain has a direct and easy route to the summit, but Senator Borah’s resolution never got off the ground. Too many profiteers had made their fortunes through the bloodshed of World War I. If he were alive and pushing his resolution today, Borah would likely be laughed right off the Senate floor. Ending the cycle of violence appears to be an impossible chore. My friend John Rachel has a plan, and what I believe to be a viable one. It offers substantial monetary rewards for those who sing the song of peace on earth. If it caught fire, The Peace Dividend would insure the ouster of N.R.A. whores in Congress, replace them with peace candidates, and put an end to war. This would signal a final and welcome end to the Dark Ages, and pave the road to total disarmament, both militarily and publicly.

And if I hear even one of you Second Amendment jackals out there whining about your God-given/Constitutional right to own guns, I’m going to buy myself a Glock, shove it in your mouth, and blow your pea brains into the next county. And that, my friends, is why nobody can be trusted with a gun. Each one of us teeters on the breaking point. Some much closer than others. Don’t make me come over there!

By John Rohn Hall/DissidentVoice

Posted by The NON-Conformist