Category Archives: Law

Mandatory minimum sentences are cruel and ineffective. Sessions wants them back.

As a federal prosecutor and judge, we saw that these policies do not work.

Last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions instructed the nation’s 2,300 federal prosecutors to pursue the most serious charges in all but exceptional cases. Rescinding a 2013 policy that sought to avoid mandatory minimums for low-level, nonviolent drug offenders, Sessions wrote it was the “moral and just” thing to do.

Sessions couldn’t be more wrong. We served as a federal prosecutor and a federal judge respectively. In our experience, mandatory minimums have swelled the federal prison population and led to scandalous racial disparities. They have caused untold misery at great expense. And they have not made us safer.

Mandatory federal drug sentencing is unforgiving. A person with one prior drug felony who is charged with possession of 10 grams of LSD, 50 grams of methamphetamine, or 280 grams of crack cocaine with intent to distribute faces 20 years to life. With two priors — no matter how long ago they occurred — the penalty is life without parole.  As one federal judge has written, these are sentences that “no one — not even the prosecutors themselves — thinks are appropriate.”

They waste human potential. They harm the 5 million children who have or have had a parent in prison — including one in nine black children.  And they wreak economic devastation on poor communities. Studies have found, for example, that formerly incarcerated employees make 10 to 40 percent less money than similar workers with no history of incarceration and that the probability of a family being in poverty increases by almost 40 percent when a father is imprisoned.

Still, in 2003 then-Attorney General John Ashcroft pushed line prosecutors to charge mandatory minimums whenever possible. His policy helped grow the federal prison population from 172,000 to nearly 220,000 over the next 10 years.  This was part of a wider national trend that grew the country’s incarcerated population to 2.2 million, almost 60 percent of them black and Latino.

In 2013, Attorney General Eric Holder recognized that this system of mass incarceration was at odds with the Justice Department’s values. He told attorneys to reserve the most severe penalties for the most serious offenses. That meant charging cases in a way that would not trigger mandatory minimums for a specific group of defendants: nonviolent, low-level drug offenders, with no ties to gangs or cartels, no involvement in trafficking to minors, and no significant criminal history.

Holder’s policy was part of an emerging criminal justice reform movement. Since 2009, more than half the states have passed legislation to relax mandatory minimums and restore judicial discretion — including deep-red GeorgiaLouisianaMississippi, Oklahoma, and South Carolina. A new crop of prosecutors is openly questioning the use of long prison terms for minor drug crimes. And a bill to ease federal sentencing has bipartisan support in Congress.

Sessions is bent on reversing this progress.

It would be one thing if Holder’s reform efforts had failed — but they did not. The federal prison population fell for the first time after 40 years of exponential growth.  It is down 14 percent over the past 3½ years. While we need a wider conversation about how we sentence all offenders, including violent offenders, state and federal, this was a start. The 2013 policy sent a message about the need to be smart, not just tough, on crime, and the role of prosecutors in that effort.

Sessions’s assault on the past few years of progress might also make sense if mandatory minimums for minor drug offenses were necessary to combat crime — but they are not. A 2014 study by the U.S. Sentencing Commission found that defendants released early (based on sentencing changes not related to mandatory minimums) were not more likely to reoffend than prisoners who served their whole sentences. That is, for drug charges, shorter sentences don’t compromise public safety. Indeed, research shows it is the certainty of punishment — not the severity — that deters crime.

Sessions’s fixation on mandatory minimums might also be more palatable if they were cost-effective — but they are not. Federal prison costs have ballooned to $7 billion, more than a quarter of DOJ’s budget, driven by a population that is nearly half drug offenders.  And yet as detailed by the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council last year, most experts believe that expending public resources to incarcerate these offenders is profoundly inefficient.

Sessions’s defenders will say his policy only requires prosecutors to charge the defendant’s true conduct and apply the statutes Congress enacted. But floor statements from legislators show that Congress intended these mandatory minimums to be used against “kingpins” and “middle-level dealers,” not the minor offenders to whom they have been applied.

One of us served as a federal prosecutor under Holder and had mandatory minimum charges at his disposal. The message from the top down was that prosecutors were to pursue justice. Winning did not mean getting the longest sentence possible. It meant getting the right sentence, one that fit the crime and that respected the interests of victims, defendants, and the public.

The other of us served as a federal judge for 17 years, including during the heyday of the Ashcroft regime. She believes that roughly 80 percent of the sentences she was obliged to impose were unjust, unfair and disproportionate. Mandatory penalties meant that she couldn’t individualize punishment for the first-time drug offender, or the addict, or the woman whose boyfriend coerced her into the drug trade.

Under Sessions, prosecutors will be required almost always to charge mandatory minimums, however unjust. They will bind judges’ hands even when the facts cry out for more measured punishment. The result will be great suffering. And there is no good reason for it.

By Nancy Gertner and Chiraag Bains/WashingtonPost

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Maintaining American Imperialism May Help Explain James Comey’s Firing

In a very short amount of time, it’s become something of cliche to talk about Donald Trump’s firing of James Comey as the equivalent of Richard Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre,” when Nixon fired anyone at the Department of Justice unwilling to fire the Watergate independent prosecutor.

If that does turn out to be an apt analogy, it’s hardly surprising that this is happening in many respects.

The crimes of Watergate came out of the Vietnam War, though this is poorly understood. The Watergate “plumbers” were originally set up to plug the leaks about the Vietnam War.

And so, with the rise of the imperial presidency, it was hardly surprising that someone like Nixon would use the mechanisms of empire—the capacity for secrecy, surveillance and violence—for his own political purposes. Indeed, J. Edgar Hoover, atop the FBI, had been doing so for decades.

The late Watergate historian Stanley Kutler writes in his book “Abuse of Power” that Nixon railed to his aides about papers regarding the Vietnam War that he thought were at the then-liberal Brookings Institution.

“I want it implemented. … Goddamn it, get in and get those files. Blow the safe and get it.”

The documents Nixon apparently wanted to get hold of allegedly showed that Lyndon Johnson curtailed the bombing of Vietnam in 1968 to boost the Democrats’ election prospects of winning the election that year.

A great irony now is that the establishment Democrats are going after Trump in a number of personal ways, but collude in others, and indeed stiffen up his use of violence. When Trump uses military violence in Yemen or Syria, he is lauded as presidential by presumed liberals like Van Jones and Fareed Zakaria.

Johnson was thought to curtail bombing for political gain. Trump now gains politically when he engages in bombing.

The U.S. establishment seems to want an emperor who will go around the world spying on people and killing them as he sees fit, while ensuring he abides by legal niceties.

The obsessiveness over secrecy and the intense “principle-less” partisanship give us a situation where the political factions spew allegations to the public that are, at best, difficult to discern, even if you follow politics full-time, much less if you’re trying to hold down a regular honest job.

This leads to a political culture based on loving or hating various political figures, or just checking out of politics, which much of the political establishment may want for large sectors of the public.

The secrecy and the surveillance are sold to the public as necessary for their own protection, but the opposite is true. The little known Katharine Gun case highlights how the actual target of surveillance is frequently not “terrorism,” but the threat of peace.

So, the Trump administration’s ridiculous claims about the reasons for the Comey firing are fairly similar to the lying pretexts that U.S. officialdom used to justify the Iraq invasion. Empire is compatible with democracy only with a series of dehumanizing triple standards. It’s fine there, just don’t do it here.

After all, the main victims of the Iraq invasion were the Iraqi people, and they are off screen and the officials who inflicted horrors on them have all walked away nice and clear.

The mechanisms of empire are tolerated, until someone like Trump seems to be using them for his own personal ends.

In terms of Trump’s own crimes, he is quite impeachable on the domestic emoluments clause, but the establishment Democrats seem quite uninterested in pursuing that.

They have focused on his apparent ties to Russia. There may well be something there. Trump is a corrupt figure, and it’s well within his capacities to engage in a massive, if at times possibly buffoonish, cover-up. But it is incredibly dangerous that the establishment Democrats seem intent on risking escalations with the other major nuclear power on the planet so they can beat Trump over the head.

By Sam Husseini/Truthdig

Posted by The NON-Conformist

America’s Great Leap Backwards From Richard Nixon to Donald Trump

For almost 50 years, the US economy and society has taken a great leap backward — accelerating during the past three Presidencies. Not only have we experienced the reversal of past socio-economic legislation, but also our presidents and Congress have dragged us into multiple aggressive wars. Now, the threat of a nuclear attack against our ‘declared enemies’ is ‘on the table’.

Since the end of the Viet Nam war, US military ‘interventions’ have become wars of long duration. These have cost millions of lives overseas, tens of millions of refugees and scores of thousands of American soldier deaths, permanent injury and serious mental and neuropsychiatric damage. There is no ‘light at the end of the tunnel’, to quote the US General William Westmoreland.

In retrospect, and after 50 years of decline, the much-maligned Presidency of Richard Milhous Nixon now stands out as a golden age of social, environmental and inter-racial advances, as well as an era of successful peace negotiations and diplomacy. President Nixon, never an ideologue, accepted the reality of a multi-polar world.

Of course, the Nixon Presidency was characterized by serious crimes against humanity, such as the CIA-sponsored coup d’état against the democratically elected Chilean President Allende, the bombing of Cambodia and the genocidal invasion of the newly independent country of East Timor.

Today, he is best known for the far-less consequential events around the ‘Watergate’ scandal and related domestic civil rights abuses and corruption. It was the mass media and Democratic Party politicos who have grossly inflated the election campaign chicanery, leading up to the bungled break-in of the Watergate Hotel headquarters of the Democratic Party, which led to Nixon’s impeachment and resignation. To today’s media spin-masters, Watergate was the defining event of President Nixon’s Presidency.

Ironically, after Nixon resigned from office even greater disasters occurred. This paper will enumerate these and compare them with the Nixon presidency.

Far from pursuing diplomacy and peace, subsequent presidents, both ‘liberal’ Democrats and ‘conservative’ Republicans, invaded Nicaragua, Afghanistan, Panama, Grenada, and Angola and initiated a dozen other highly destructive and economically devastating wars. The two oligarchic parties took turns in shredding Nixon’s comparatively peaceful legacy.

President Nixon, under the advice of National Security adviser, Henry Kissinger, supported Israel’s invasion of the Arab countries in 1973 as well as the bloody Chilean military coup in 1973.

President Nixon cynically designed the ‘Southern Strategy’, which transformed the Democratic Party-controlled racist fiefdoms of the US South into racist Republican-controlled states.

Progressives, liberals and self-styled democratic-socialists have played a leading role in ignoring Nixon’s ‘golden years’ in terms of domestic and international policy achievements. Instead they focused on inane and infantile name-calling, like “Tricky Dick”, to describe the man. By doing so, they have failed miserably to discuss national and international issues of historic importance. They have deliberately fabricated a distorted picture of the Nixon era to cover-up for the gross failures of subsequent Democratic Party controlled Congresses and Democratic Presidents.

In this essay, we will briefly outline Richard Nixon’s policies and executive initiatives, which justify our designation of the Nixon’s ‘golden years’, especially in comparison to what has followed his era.

President Nixon: The Great Leap Forward

In the sphere of political, economic and social life, President Nixon pursued policies, which ultimately advanced peace in the world and social welfare in the United States.

In foreign policy and diplomacy, Richard Nixon ended both the draft of young Americans into the armed forces, as well as the decade-long US military occupation of Indo-China, effectively ending the war – and acknowledging the hard victory of the Vietnamese National Liberation Front. The war had cost millions of Southeast Asian lives.

Nixon visited Beijing and recognized the ‘existence’ of the People’s Republic of China, effectively ending a quarter century of economic blockades and military threats against the billion-plus population of the PRC under three Democratic (Truman, Kennedy and Johnson) and one Republican (Eisenhower) Presidential Administrations. He established full diplomatic relations with China.

Nixon initiated the Security Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) agreements with the USSR and developed diplomatic policies, which recognized the possibility and necessity of peaceful co-existence between different social systems.

On the domestic front, President Nixon established the Clean Water Act and established the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), with a Federal Government mandate to fight polluters and hold them accountable for the ‘cleanup’ of the environment.

Nixon proposed a National Health Insurance Program – an expansion of Medicare to cover the health needs of all Americans. This radical proposal (a version of ‘single payer’) was attacked and defeated by the Democratic Party, led by Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy who was backed by ‘Big Pharma’, the AMA and the growing corporate ‘health’ industry.

Nixon imposed price and wage controls that constrained inflation and price gouging and actively punished commodity ‘hoarding’. This was a time of rapid inflation and shortages due to the ‘Oil Embargo’. With these measures, he incurred the wrath of Wall Street, big business and the financial press.

Nixon promoted consumer rights, supplemental legislation to expand Social Security, especially for the handicapped, while defending the retirement age for pension eligibility.

Under Nixon, union membership rose to 30% of the workforce – its high point before its precipitous decline to 12% under subsequent US Presidents.

Nixon increased salaries of federal employees and real wages rose. In the following half-century real wages have declined to only 10% of their Nixon era value!

Nixon indexed Social Security to the real rate of inflation.

The Nixon Presidency initiated the Affirmative Action program and used the Federal Government to push for the desegregation of schools, leading to the first large-scale integration of public education in the South. President Nixon created the Office of Minority Business Enterprises (OMBE); the Occupation Safety and Health Agency (OSHA); and the Legacy of Parks Programs.

Nixon proposed a guaranteed annual wage for American workers, which both Democrats and Republicans rejected and defeated! He promoted Keynesian industrial policies against the financial elites with their mania for speculation.

President Nixon appointed four Supreme Court Justices during his term. Three of his appointees supported the groundbreaking ‘Roe versus Wade’ decision protecting women’s reproductive rights.

Under Nixon the voting age was reduced from twenty-one to eighteen years – giving millions of young Americans a greater political voice.

When Nixon spoke in favor of gun control, both the Republican and Democratic Parties opposed his proposals.

President Nixon supported the Equal Employment Opportunity Act and the Endangered Species Act, which have remained critical to social and environmental justice.

Richard Nixon was not a ‘single issue’ President. The span and depth of his progressive agenda, included fundamental changes in favor of environmental and racial justice, working class economic security and broad-ranging health issues, peace and co-operation with China and the USSR, women’s rights through Supreme Court decisions; pensioners’ rights, and animal rights advocacy. He reduced economic inequalities between the richest 1% of capitalists and the working class. Under President Nixon inequality and the concentration of wealth in the US were far less than they became with subsequent US Presidents and especially during the Obama Administration.

No President, with the possible exception of President Franklin Roosevelt’s Great Depression Era legislation, even remotely achieved Nixon’s domestic socio-economic successes. President Roosevelt, one must not forget, operated under the immense pressure of massive working class strikes and in preparation for World War II, while President Nixon achieved his policy advances during a time of relative ‘peace’.

The Post-Nixon Bi-Partisan Regression

In the 41 years since Nixon’s resignation (1976-2017) there has been a systematic rollback of virtually all of the Nixon agenda. Congress, the liberals, the mass media and Wall Street immediately switched from denigrating Nixon, to praising Democratic President ‘Jimmy’ Carter’s reversal of Nixon’s foreign policy achievements.

Contrary to his media-polished image as a ‘Bible-thumping champion of human rights’, President Carter dismantled Nixon’s policies promoting peace with the USSR and China, especially when he appointed the rabidly anti-Russian, anti-communist Zbigniew Brzezinski for National Security Adviser. The duet created the public image of Carter mouthing human rights rhetoric while Brzezinski formulated a policy of backing dictators and funding Islamist (jihadi) terrorists to undermine Soviet allies. The two-faced ‘Evangelical Christian’ Carter sent confidential letters of US support for the brutal dictator Somoza to prevent the Sandinista victory in Nicaragua, while issuing platitudes about peace in Central America.

Carter worked closely with the military dictatorship in Pakistan and the ‘head chopping’ monarchs in Saudi Arabia to launch the bloody forty-year war in Afghanistan, a Soviet Ally. The Carter-Brzezinski-promoted mujahideen war against secularism in Afghanistan led directly to the rise of Islamist terrorism, the Taliban and al Qaeda. Carter’s ‘freedom fighters’ systematically massacred secular schoolteachers for ‘the crime’ of educating Afghan girls in the countryside.

In order to undermine the USSR and other socialist or independent secular countries with Muslim populations, the Carter-Brzezinski duet financed and trained the Saudi-indoctrinated Al-Qaeda terrorists. They were delighted when it spread its poison across the Middle East, Asia, Africa, the Balkans and the Soviet Union promoting separatism and ethnic cleansing. Their cheers ceased somewhat on 9/11/2001.

Domestically, Carter’s deregulation of price controls led to double-digit inflation and set in motion the long-term decline in wages and salaries, which still plagues the American lower middle and working classes.

Carter appointed Chairman of the Federal Reserve Paul Volcker, who implemented draconian anti-inflationary ‘austerity’ policies reducing domestic consumption and opening the way for the de-industrialization of the economy.

The seismic change in the US, the ‘financialization’ of the domestic economy started under Jimmy Carter and was deepened and expanded under the subsequent Presidents Ronald Regan, George H W Bush, Sr., ‘Bill’ Clinton, George W. Bush (Jr) and Barack Obama. Poverty and permanent unemployment followed.

With deindustrialization, labor union membership declined from 30% of the private labor force under Nixon to less than 7% today. Organizing workers was no longer a priority: The AFL-CIO leaders were too busy chasing after the Democrats for handouts (and get-out-of jail passes).

After Carter, the Republican President Ronald Reagan doubled military spending, brutally broke the strike of the Air Controller’s union by jailing its leaders, whipped up the revival of US interventionism by invading Grenada and sending Special Forces to join the death squads murdering tens of thousands of peasant activists in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

President Reagan’s ‘free market’ polices encouraged US multinational corporations to relocate their factories overseas to Mexico, the Caribbean and Asia, costing millions of US workers well-paying jobs and reducing the number of unionized jobs. The stock markets and profits rose while the ‘American Dream’ of lifetime stable employment in industry began to fade.

Reagan’s threats and his huge military build-up forced the USSR to overspend in arms and strangle its growing domestic consumer economy.

The Reagan-Thatcher (British PM) era marked the demise of social welfare. They imposed the doctrine of ‘globalization’ – in essence, the bellicose revival of Anglo-American imperialism and the end of domestic industrial prosperity.

George HW Bush ‘negotiated’ with Russian President Gorbachev the break-up of the USSR. Despite Bush’s promises not to place US-NATO forces in former Soviet-allied countries, the following period saw the huge US-NATO expansion into Eastern Europe, the Balkans and Baltic states. President Bush (Sr.) invaded and savaged both Panama and Iraq, restarting the epoch of permanent US wars.

President George HW Bush promulgated the unipolar doctrine of US world domination, known as the ‘Bush Doctrine’.

The Reagan-Bush regimes emptied the content of the Nixon-era progressive agencies in terms of civil rights, consumer and environmental protection, and wage protection. Unionization declined by over a third.

After ‘war-monger’ President ‘Papa’ Bush, the Saxophone-playing President ‘Bill’ Clinton was elected. While crooning the words, ‘I feel your pain’ ,to American workers and racial minorities, Clinton unleashed Wall Street, ending regulation of banks and investment houses. He re-appointed Alan Greenspan to head the Federal Reserve, a proven master of grotesque financial speculation and the godfather of economic crisis (2007-2009).

President Clinton, passions aroused by the animal spirits on Wall Street (and inside his White House office), launched a vicious assault on the social welfare state, and in particular, low-income working families, single parents and African-Americans. Clinton’s promotion of “Workfare” forced single mothers to accept unsustainable minimum wage jobs under the threat of ending any welfare support, while not providing any mechanism for child care! This one policy savaged hundreds of thousands of vulnerable families. Under Clinton, the prison industry exploded as a multi-billion dollar business.

During the 1990s, Clinton backed the most retrograde pro-business, debt-ridden regimes in Latin America. Hundreds of billions of dollars of Latin American wealth was transferred to the US. Clinton’s ‘Golden Years for Wall Street’ were a decade of infamy for Latin Americans and led directly to major leftist revolts by the end of the Clinton era.

President Clinton deepened and widened the US military drive for domination in Europe and the Middle East. Clinton bombed and invaded Yugoslavia, especially Serbia – destroying large parts of its capital Belgrade. He bombed Iraq on a daily basis and increased the starvation blockade of that nation. He invaded Somalia and backed Israeli land grabbing-settlement expansion in Palestine. He supported the Israeli savaging of Lebanon. He committed treason by submitting to Israeli blackmail over his sex-capers with Monica Lewinsky and trying to release Israeli spy-US Naval analyst Jonathan Pollard. It was only after an open threat of wholesale resignations by the CIA and other security agencies that Clinton withdrew his proposal to free the traitor Pollard.

Finance capital flourished as Clinton repealed the venerable Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 against bank speculation. He promoted the hugely unpopular NAFTA, (North American Free Trade Agreement) leading to the loss of over two million industrial jobs, as US multinationals absconded to Mexico, where wages were less than one-fifth of the US. NAFTA’s savaging of the Mexican agricultural sector and massive bankruptcies of small producers led directly to the flood of desperate Mexican migrants looking for work in the US.

The Georgetown-Harvard-Oxford trained ‘Bill’ Clinton was the grand wizard of talking like a ‘black preacher’ in southern churches while smoothly pursuing the ‘big bucks’ on Wall Street.

After Clinton, regressive policies increased sharply: President George W Bush (Jr), ‘First Black President’ Barack Obama and ‘First Billionaire President’ Donald Trump all supported the most virulent imperial war policies.

The two terms of President George (Jr) Bush (2001-2008) saw unending multi-trillion dollar-wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which have destabilized two continents. Junior Bush presided over the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression. His anti-Muslim ‘global wars on terror (GWOT)’ was launched under the influence of ‘Israel-First’ militarists who had inundated the Defense Department, National Security staff and Middle East policy and advisory staff in the State Department. Meanwhile, GW Bush deepened unemployment and allowed the mortgage foreclosure on millions of homeowners. The domestic economy was in severe crisis.

By the end of the George W. Bush Presidency, reinvigorated anti-war and social justice movements were gaining strength throughout the country. Arriving on the scene of growing social unrest and with perfect timing, the ‘community organizer’ presidential candidate Barack Obama won the presidency by promising a progressive agenda to undermine the mass popular radicalization against Bush’s unpopular wars, growing inequalities, endless bank swindles, foreclosures and blatant racist policies against Afro-Americans and Hispanics.

Once elected, the ‘First Black’ US President Obama immediately increased Bush’s militarism and handed the criminals on Wall Street a record two-trillion-dollar bailout, ripped out of what remained of public social programs. Elected on a pledge to overhaul the ridiculously inefficient, pro-profit, private health care system, Obama gave the electorate a program of greater complexity and rapidly increasing insurance premiums (‘Obama Care’ or the ‘Affordable Care Act’), which ended with a negative impact on the nation’s health.

Under Obama, life expectancy, as well as, the income gaps between the rich and the poor grew at an alarming rate. Inequalities increased with a historic shift of national wealth to the top 1%. The class and health apartheid sharpened in the US. The transfer of jobs abroad accelerated. Multinational corporate tax evasion rose by hundreds of billions of dollars. The gap between African-American wages and white workers increased. Obama deported more immigrants, especially workers from Mexico and Central America, than all four previous presidents combined!

Elected on a pledge to ‘bring the troops home’, President Obama broke the record for waging simultaneous wars of all previous presidents! Obama launched or backed US wars and coups (‘regime changes’) in Ukraine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Honduras and Somalia. After receiving the Nobel ‘Peace’ Prize, President Obama provided advanced weapons to Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Egypt. Obama financed and armed tens of thousands of mercenary terrorists who savaged the secular multiethnic Syrian republic. Furthermore, his administration cynically backed the separatist Kurds occupying Northern Iraq.

Hawaii born and bred, Harvard-educated President Obama had mastered the deep-voiced Southern preacher rhetoric to corrupt the leadership of the social justice and anti-war movements. He coopted the leaders of the mass popular movements to their eternal shame and the movements died. Even the short-lived anti-Wall Street ‘Occupy Movement’ received Obama’s expressions of ‘sympathy’ as he backed the unleashing of police dogs and tear gas on the activists!

Obama’s reactionary military encirclement of Russia and China influenced the foreign policy views of a majority of US liberals as well as the mass media – turning them into ‘humanitarian interventionists’ and tools for empire.

Ever duplicitous, Obama signed a ‘unilateral nuclear disarmament agreement with Iran’ and then immediately broke the agreement by imposing new sanctions on Tehran’s banking and oil transactions.

There was great media fanfare when Obama re-established diplomatic relations with Cuba. This move facilitated the entry and funding of pro-imperialist NGO’s committed to ‘regime change’ along the same line as other ‘color revolutions’. Despite the photo-ops with the Cuban leadership, the US trade embargo against the Cuban people remained in place.

Obama’s State Department and Treasury were tasked with sabotaging and overthrowing the elected Chavez-Maduro governments in Venezuela promoting acts of violence, which have thrown the country into chaos. His Secretary of State Clinton orchestrated the violent removal of the presidents of Libya and Honduras and the installation of rabidly reactionary governments whose policies have created hundreds of thousands of refugees and the assassinations of tens of thousands of citizens, human rights and environmental activists.

Obama’s much-promoted corporate for-profit health program brought some degree of insurance coverage to just half of the uninsured poor within its first year. However, after the first year health premiums rose by 25% while deductibles increased beyond the capacity of many working families. Since then, premiums have risen astronomically and coverage is unaffordable or unavailable in many areas of the country. The debt burden of ill health or a sudden medical emergency has increased for the middle and working class under Wall Street’s ‘First Black’ President. No demographic measures of improvement, in terms of life expectancy or life quality, have been documented since the implementation of ‘Obama Care’. Indeed, these public health measures have deteriorated with an epidemic of suicides, opioid-related deaths and premature deaths of all types among the working and rural classes.

After 8 years, the core of the nation, the so-called ‘Flyover States’, where the downwardly mobile working and lower middle class white majority live, was fed up with Obama’s cant and blatantly elitist policies. In was in this context that the distasteful billionaire buffoon Donald Trump capitalized on mass popular discontent and rallied a populace in revolt against the previous ‘war and bankers’ presidents, by promising to end corporate export of jobs, Wall Street corruption, ‘Obamacare’, competition for jobs with undocumented cheap labor and endless overseas wars. Trump hit a raw nerve among scores of millions of voters when he accused the earlier Bush Administration of fabricating the pretexts for the invasion of Iraq as well as for security failures in the 9/11 attacks on New York City and the Pentagon.

Within weeks after taking office President Trump gracefully performed an Obama-style ‘about-face’ and emerged a re-anointed warmonger of the Hillary Clinton variety: He celebrated his transformation by bombing Syria, Afghanistan and the defenseless, starving people of Yemen. He sent warships off the coast of North Korea, placed advanced missile installations in South Korea and threatened nuclear war in Asia.

Trump miserably failed to ‘reform’ the corporate health plan concocted by his smirking predecessor. He shed his promise to seek peaceful relations with Moscow and embraced the policies of the worst anti-Russian liberal warmongers groomed by Clinton and Obama. Obama’s overt war posturing had so deeply influenced African-American politicians that they loudly accused Trump of being ‘too soft on Russia’! Former civil rights leaders-turned politicians were calling for greater US military interventions – a spectacle what would have made our sacred civil rights martyrs rolling in their graves.

Trump, building on the immense power already entrenched in Washington, reinforced and expanded the role of finance capital and the Pentagon in determining US policy. Trump pledged to exceed Obama’s arrest and expulsion of immigrants – from 2.5 million workers in eight years to an additional 5 million in his first four-year term.

The US corporate mass media and the liberal left have been pushing the pro-business President Trump even further to the right – demanding the US escalate its nuclear threat against North Korea, mount a full invasion of Syria (for its ‘crimes against humanity’) and, above all, ‘tighten the military noose’ around Russia and China.

Conclusion

By any measure, the policies of President Richard Milhous Nixon were more socially progressive, less militarist and less servile to Wall Street than any and all of the subsequent US Presidents. This assessment is heresy to the current historical narratives promoted by both political parties and the corporate media-academic nexus.

But even during the Nixon Presidency there were already signs of an allied liberal-rightist attack on his progressive ‘conservative’ agenda. Senator Edward (Ted) Kennedy blocked Nixon’s proposal for a universal national health system built on an expansion of the highly successful ‘Medicare Program’. Nixon’s proposal (a ‘Medicare For All’) would have been far more comprehensive, effective and affordable than the corporate boondoggles cooked up by the Clinton and Obama Administrations.

What accounts for the dramatic shift from the center left to the far right among US Presidents after the 1970’s? What explains the rise and demise of ‘Nixonian’ progressivism and the great leap backward in the subsequent four and half decades?

Personality and personal background are not irrelevant: Nixon’s class and work background and personal experience with the Great Depression framed some of his outlook despite his ‘conservative’ credentials. However, the social and political balance of forces played the decisive role. Richard Nixon came to national attention as a rightwing militarist and aggressive attack dog for Senator Joesph McCarthy during the 1950s and at the beginning of his Presidential term in the late 1960’s. However, the reality of the multi-million-person anti-war movement challenged American society and influenced the armed forces from within. Even sectors of the mass media became highly critical of the permanent war state. This movement filled the streets, divided families and influenced the institutions and communities leading to a dramatic change in Nixon’s politics toward peace and even toward social and racial justice. Nixon truly became a ‘realist’.

In those days, the industrial trade unions were powerful. Manufacturing formed the basis of the economy and determined the direction of the banking-finance sector. Wall Street played ‘second fiddle’ to production.

Fed up with the lack of social progress and opportunity in their communities, African American revolts in the streets were far more effective than the tame black Democratic Party politicos in Congress.

The decline of the social movements and militant labor unions, as well as the retreat to electoral politics among the African American and anti-war movements, ended the independent popular pressure and facilitated the rising power of the pro-war, Wall Street-controlled parties linked to money and speculation. Labor unions became the fiefdoms of corrupt millionaire union bosses who bought protection from prosecution with multi-million dollar campaign donations to both Democrats and Republican politicians. They discarded the Nixon’s social agenda, using the ‘Watergate Scandal’ as a pretext to dismantle his advanced programs.

Presidents and Congresses became beholden to the bankers. The rise, dominance and deep corruption of the Wall Street speculators realigned the economy away from domestic manufacturing to international finance – leading to the great relocation of US factories abroad and the permanent marginalization of the once-organized American working class.

Voters were marginalized as active participants in their own public affairs. They alternated their disaffection between parties and candidates, between big and small spenders, indicted and unindicted swindlers, and exposed and unpunished perverts.

The domestic changes in the economy and social structure were the direct outcome of these shifts in the social and political struggles and organizations.

There is a dialectical relationship between socio-economic changes and the rise and fall of socio-political struggles.

These domestic shifts of power and policy were influenced by the major changes in global power, namely the demise of the USSR, the decline of secular-nationalist regimes in the Middle East, the defeat of the left in Latin America and, above all, the rise of the US imperial doctrines of unipolar power and the globalization. The ‘changing times’ explains everything and nothing! While the objective world determines politics, so do the subjective responses of Presidents.

President Richard Nixon could have escalated the Vietnam War up to a nuclear attack on Hanoi: This is what the current Obama-Trump militarist advisors now recommend for the North Koreans. Nixon could have followed the rightwing ‘free market’ ideology of the Republican-Goldwater faction. However, Nixon took a pragmatic, peace and social reformist position – which have brought us some of our most cherished programs – EPA, OSHA, SALT disarmament, relations with China, even Roe versus Wade, and an end to the military draft.

Subsequent Presidents, faced with the shifts in political, social and economic power, chose to re-direct the nation toward greater militarism and the domination of finance capital. They have systematically attacked and dismantled the social welfare programs, environmental protection, pro-industry legislation, diplomacy and peace pacts initiated by Nixon.

The aphorism, ‘man makes history but not of his own doing’, is central to our discussion of the Nixon legacy. The process of regression is a cumulative process, of leaps and steps. In recent years, regression has accelerated with devastating results for the domestic and world populations. Social power, concentrated at the top, weakens but also alienates power at the bottom and middle. The current configuration of power and policies cannot be permanent, even if the trajectory so far has favored the elite. Social classes and groups are not fixed in their orientations.

Twice in recent years, significant majorities voted for jobs, justice and peace (Obama and Trump) and instead got charlatans bringing greater inequality, injustice and endless wars.

Deception and deep commitments to reactionary politics have penetrated widely among the ‘discontented classes’. African-American political leaders and pundits now demand war against Russia following the pronouncements of their ‘Black President’, Barack Obama. Poor marginalized white workers still support their billionaire leader Donald Trump as he waltzes down Wall Street and into possible nuclear war.

The dialectic of discontent and resentment can lead to progressive or reactionary political and social alignments, even, or especially, in the face of history’s great leap backwards!

By James Petras/DissedentVoice

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Are There Any Solutions to the Gun Violence Problem In the Black Community?

It is not too hard to find a story today about the relationship between the African-American community and guns. Typically, these stories paint a complicated and often inaccurate view of the role guns play in the lives of people of color.

For example, it was recently reported that a 15-year-old African-American boy was shot and killed May 6 by San Diego Police responding to a 911 call. The teenager allegedly pointed a BB gun at the police when they arrived. The police stated that the teenager who was shot made the original 911 call. In a separate report, a drunken gunman opened fire at an apartment pool in San Diego on April 30, targeting and killing African-Americans and a Hispanic. Yet, in another report, Austin police shot and killed a 24-year-old African-American man that is alleged to have fired at the police officers.

It is unclear what is going on here. For the most part, there is simply not enough information to make sense of the realities of the gun violence epidemic in the African-American community, which makes statements – such as Donald Trump’s assertion in his State of the Union address that the “cycle of poverty” is feeding the “cycle of violence” in cities like Chicago – inflammatory and unsustainable. Such statements ignore several key facts, such as the rate of Black victimization being a third today of what it was 20 years ago and that the regions with the most marked difference between Black and white victimization are not the major cities, but areas like Missouri, Indiana and Washington D.C.

“The truth of the matter is that we just don’t know what is behind the gun violence,” Nicholas Johnson, professor of law at the Fordham University’s School of Law, stated. “Every popular theory — from single-parent families to economic disparity to sheer boredom — either has been disproved or does not have enough evidence to support them.”

In light of what is being seen as a public health crisis and a changing reality of the role of guns in the African-American life, the conspiracy of silence that surrounds this issue is stifling. By understanding who is pushing this intentional ignorance and why, we can move forward toward understanding the true role of the gun in the Black community and build meaningful strategies to control its influence.

In 2015, the latest year to have full data released on firearm violence statistics, there were 12,979 gun-caused homicides. Approximately 59 percent (7,615) were African-Americans, with African-American men aged 34 or younger accounting for 39 percent of all of the firearm homicides in the United States. To put this in perspective, the 2015 Black homicide-by-firearm rate of 17.81 per 100,000 individuals is on par with Panama and Brazil’s national rates and would be the ninth-worst if the African-American community was recognized as its own country.

The Violence Policy Center’s analysis of the 2014 national homicide data showed that only 16 percent of all Black homicides are gang-related. Fifty percent of all Black murders arose from an argument that grew out of control and 72 percent involved a shooter that knew the victim.

Despite the high numbers, African-American gun violence is at a 30-year low, as is all violent crime in the United States. Most Americans are, however, unaware of this fact. This is in part due to media coverage of protests regarding police-related fatal shootings of unarmed Black men and children in Ferguson, Charlotte, Cleveland and New York City, and in part due to the oft-repeated and oft-disproven Republican mantra that African-Americans are responsible for the nation’s gun violence.

This was seen during the 2016 presidential campaign, when Trump claimed in an ad that 81 percent of white homicide victims were killed by Blacks. (The actual percentage is 15 percent; whites kill other whites 82 percent of the time.) He also tweeted that “inner-city crime is reaching record levels.” (There is no official category in any federal statistics for “inner-city crime” and for cities with populations over 250,000, there have been a sharp decline).

It should be noted, however, that there has been an uptick in the homicide rate in some of the larger cities since 2015, such as Orlando, Cleveland and Nashville. “The increase in crime in inner cities in 2015 was a large one-year increase, but you can see that the long-term trend is way down,” Alan Lizotte, a criminologist at the University at Albany, said to Politifact. “The recent spike would need to continue for a while to reach early-1990s levels.”

The Curious Tale of the Black Community and Gun Ownership

Nationwide, gun purchasing rates are dropping. The inconvenient truth with gun sales is that Democrats in control are very good for the bottom line. A fear of Democrats possibly restricting gun ownership rights tends to drive gun purchases. Under the united Republican government, a lack of ‘fear of missing out’ has dried up gun sales in almost every demographic.

That is, with the exception of African-Americans. The community’s gun-purchasing rate has skyrocketed since the election of Trump, mostly out of fear of an increase in racially motivated attacks and spiteful rhetoric from supporters of the president and the growth in the number of hate groups in the U.S.

Typically, the large number of guns that have entered the Black community have been “weapons of opportunities,” brought in through various third-parties in an extralegal manner. In 2014, for example, only 19 percent of Black households reported owning a gun, compared to 41 percent of non-Hispanic white households.

Legally owning a gun as an African-American wasn’t always an option. Law enforcement once regularly used race as a discriminating factor against issuing gun permits. Martin Luther King Jr., a gun owner, once famously applied for a concealed-carry permit in Alabama after his house was bombed in 1956. Despite being a member of the clergy, not having a criminal record at the time and having a demonstrable need for a firearm due to being threatened daily, the local police still denied his application on the basis of race.

Legally owning a gun does not protect the gun owner from the prejudices of those uncomfortable with an armed African-American, as well, as was the case with Philando Castile. Castile was a licensed gun owner who declared clearly that he had a lawful gun in his possession before being shot because of the gun.

This, however, undermines the reality that there is a growing subsection of African-Americans that have bought guns legally for their own protection, for sport or for the sheer sake of gun possession.

This subsection has grown rapidly since the election of Trump. Per CNN, for example, the National African-American Gun Association reported adding 9,000 members to its roster between Election Day 2016 and February 2017, up from 4,285 members added over the same period a year prior.

This growth reflects an unsettling fact that has been underreported: The rate of white-on-black killings is growing faster than the rate of black-on-white killings. A concern for personal safety has seen a spike in Black gun purchases, especially among African-American women, who makes up the largest percentage of the NAAGA’s newest members.

“Because of the climate in the White House … people in the African-American community and other communities are concerned about their safety,” Michael Cargill, a central Texas gun shop owner, told CNN. “I’m seeing people who want to learn how to shoot and then have us help shop for the right gun.”

“It’s something that I haven’t seen in years past.”

Monetizing Pain

The notion that there are guns in the African-American community is not a problem. The problem lies in who in the African-American community has the guns.

“Not every Black person is killing. The truth is, gun ownership is rare in the Black community, despite increases since the election of Trump,” Nicolas Johnson of Fordham’s School of Law adds. “As with any demographic group, there is a subset of the Black community that is antisocial. It may be financial frustrations or social stigmatization or mental illness or simply boredom, but something is driving these individuals to use their guns on each other. The trick is taking those guns away from them.”

In statistics showing recent spikes in Black homicides, those spikes have been driven by increases in street violence. Non-gang-related violence in these cities, similar to violent crime rates nationwide, has been on the decline.

A large component of the proliferation of illegal guns on the streets is the lack of effective control of gun trafficking. According to “Gun Violence in America: Informing Policy with Evidence and Analysis” by Daniel Webster and Jon Vernick, only 11 percent of the participants of the 2004 Survey of Inmates of State Correctional Facilities indicated that the guns recovered by the police for their criminal offense were purchased legally by the retailer from a licensed gun dealer. Sixty-seven percent of offenders indicated that their guns came from a friend or family member or from a street/black-market supplier.

In a large part, the proliferation of guns in this African-American community can be tracked to differences between local and state gun control regulations and trafficking between lenient and strictly regulated states. The proliferation of junk guns or cheap guns that can be secured easily by traffickers and sold at premium prices in restricted areas also play a role.

“Laws requiring private gun owners to promptly report theft or loss of firearms to police are intended to increase private gun seller accountability and provide law enforcement with a tool to combat illegal straw purchases when such purchasers accept no responsibility for the gun being in the hands of a prohibited person with dubious claims of unreported gun theft,” “Gun Violence in America” reads. “Having this measure of accountability significantly reduced interstate gun trafficking, as did bans of junk guns.”

Without effective gun control, weapons cannot be kept out of the hands of those that should never have access to guns. Worse, the quick availability of non-traceable weaponry offers a false solution at times of heightened passions where scarcity may lead to less-fatal solutions.

The Problem with Perceptions

The problem in this lies in the fact that maintaining the status quo tends to be more profitable. In regards to the gun situation in the African-American community, creating false equivalencies not only increase gun sales from those scared of the specter of Black violence but also creates a false narrative for those seeking to cultivate power based on fear.

“Donald Trump campaigned partly on the notion that our cities, at least some cities like Chicago and Baltimore, were out of control with gun violence and that he would be a law-and-order president who could staunch the violence,” noted Daniel Webster, author of “Gun Violence in America” and director of the John Hopkins Center for Gun Policy & Research. “Jeff Sessions was a close adviser to the campaign and selected to be Attorney General. Now that Trump is president and Sessions is his AG, one would think that high rates of gun violence in cities, if they do not decline under their tenure, will hurt them politically. “

“So, high rates of gun violence in cities, just like terrorist threats, helped with Trump’s political message as an outsider and change agent who wants to shake up the system. But now, Trump and Sessions have pressure to reduce gun violence in cities.”

The monetization of gun violence for political and monetary gains has created a blight on the health and prosperity of an entire people. Unless the effects of this are understood and recognized, the possibility of finding valid remedies may be just a dream.

“America has an intentional injury problem with firearm violence. It is a medical epidemic by any measure,” Georges C. Benjamin, executive director of the APHA, adds. “Clearly, the more fear we have, the more guns get bought and the gun dealers benefit from that. But, frankly, the whole community loses. Economic development, education and health are all negatively impacted by gun violence.

“We can invest in multi-sectorial solutions. Groups, such as Cease Fire in Chicago, have a methodology that focuses on violence as an infectious disease. This has been highly successful in reducing violence and it affects gun deaths,” he continued. “That, coupled with cracking down on bad-apple drug dealers, universal background checks and closing the gun show loophole, would help reduce the number of guns in the wrong hands without negatively impacting the second amendment.

“I think in a difficult environment like the one we are in we need to push even harder.”

By Frederick Reese/AtlantaBlackStar

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Wake up people! The Right is just getting started…North Carolina General Assembly…Rouge One

Image: NC Policy Watch

Conservatives are working to radically overhaul the American social contract

At the conclusion of the whirlwind 2011 session of the North Carolina General Assembly — a session in which new conservative majorities pushed through a raft of dramatic policy changes —many progressive North Carolinians surveyed the aftermath and found themselves actually breathing a sigh of relief. There was a widespread feeling that the fury of the storm had passed, that the Right had vented its collective spleen and that, having pushed through so much of its long-stymied policy agenda, conservative leaders would settle down to focus on governing the state.

The simple truth is that the Right was then and is now only just getting started. If you doubt this, take a gander at the outrageous list of destructive proposals debated in the General Assembly last week. On issue after issue – K-12 and higher education, taxes, voting rights, the environment, the safety net, church and state, immigration, guns, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, the relationship between corporations and human beings – conservative politicians and advocacy groups that inform and fuel their efforts are pushing the envelope ever further to the right.

More from NC Policy Watch

Posted by Libergirl

The new reality on health care: Some Republicans don’t want Obamacare repealed

WHERE THINGS STAND, HEALTH CARE EDITION — Republican efforts on health care can be summed up pretty simply: two steps forward, one step back. After reviving what seemed like a dead health care package, President Donald Trump’s White House and House Republicans’ efforts to try to pass a compromise package are once again on life support. Speaker Paul Ryan and House leaders decided to postpone a vote on the package to next week at the earliest, but it is unclear if they’ll be able to find enough votes. Republicans can lose roughly 22 votes. There are 15 House Republicans who solidly oppose the measure and another 20 that are leaning against voting for it. See Rachael Bade and John Bresnahan http://politi.co/2oS0pFY

IT’S ALSO IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER — Whatever the House does with Obamacare is only an opening salvo. Senate Republicans haven’t been engaged in the effort and they would make major changes to whatever the House passes.

More from Politico

Posted by Libergirl

Mexican illegal immigrant population in US lowest since 2009 – study

A new report has found that the number of unauthorized Mexican immigrants residing in the US has been steadily decreasing over the past 10 years, and they no longer make up the majority of illegal immigrants.

The Pew Research Center released a report Tuesday that estimates the population of unauthorized immigrants living in the US to have decreased from its peak of 12.2 million during the recession in 2007 to 11.3 million in 2016.

For the first time, the population of unauthorized immigrants living in the US has fallen below the level in 2009, the end of the Great Recession, the report found.

Pew included immigrants who entered the country illegally or overstayed their visas as unauthorized immigrants.

The report estimates the unauthorized immigrant population in 1990 was around 3.5 million, which grew to a peak of 12.2 million in 2007.

Since 2009, the report estimates the population grew by around 350,000 unauthorized immigrants per year, with 100,000 of those coming from Mexico.

It is estimated that 2016 was the first year since 2005 that Mexicans have not made up the majority of the unauthorized immigrant population.

Mexicans remain largest group among unauthorized immigrants in US, but now may no longer account for a majority http://pewrsr.ch/2pvCkcf 

Using data from the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and Current Population Survey through former President Barack Obama’s second term, the report estimated the number of unauthorized Mexican immigrants decreased from 6.9 million in 2007 to 5.6 million in 2016.

Their data showed Mexicans went from making up 57 percent of the unauthorized immigrant population to around 50 percent in roughly 10 years.

While the Pew report did not include any data from the Trump administration, it did note that policy changes on increased border protections under the current administration have accompanied a sharp decline in the number of apprehensions at the southwest border, according to data from the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

CBP data shows 16,600 apprehensions were made along the southwest border in March 2017, a 30 percent decrease from the previous month and a 64 percent increase from the same month in the previous year.

During Monday’s press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer defended Trump’s plan to build a wall along the southern border, despite the fact that border crossings have decreased, calling the wall “a permanent step that will extend beyond his presidency.

Just because you have a couple good months in a year, I think you want to make sure that you take prudent long-term steps,” Spicer said. “Eight years from now, the next President will have that wall in place to make sure that it doesn’t continue.

Pew also found that while the share of unauthorized Mexican immigrants has been declining, there have been a growing number of immigrants coming from other areas in the world, namely Central America and Asia.

Estimated authorized immigrant totals from Mexico declined during 2009-2015, but rose from Asia & Central America http://pewrsr.ch/2qaFLB4 

In 2015, the report estimates there were 1.8 million unauthorized immigrants from Central America and 1.5 million from Asia. Both of these populations have increased by around 200,000 since 2009.

The Pew Research Center also released a report earlier this month that showed federal law enforcement agencies have been making more immigration-related arrests and fewer arrests for other offenses, including drug, property and gun-related crimes.

Their data showed half of the 165,265 arrests made by federal law enforcement agencies in fiscal year 2014 were related to immigration, an increase of 22 percent from 2004.

From RT

Posted by The NON-Conformist