Thursday, July 2, 2015

From Ferguson to Freedom: Hip-Hop’s Role

By Talib Kweli
As the nation remains in the throes of an epidemic of police shooting deaths of young blacks, as well as the shooting deaths of nine people last week at a Charleston church by a lone gunman, it's important to reflect on the extent to which racism is indoctrinated, institutionalized and entrenched in our economic system, in our hospitals, in our courts, in our schools, in our prisons and elsewhere. 
When we ask the question of how to change America's perception of black men, we must understand that the perception of black people in this society is based on the preservation of white supremacy — the same white supremacy that arose from the greed of the Atlantic slave trade, the same white supremacy that created Jim Crow, the same white supremacy that creates both the military industrial complex and the prison industrial complex. Just as we go around the world bombing brown people, our prison system is clearly a way to keep poor and oppressed brown and black people in their place.
To me, the prison industrial complex is the most dangerous pinnacle of racism. If we could get rid of the prison system, that would go a long way in tapping into the thought process that shapes the nation's negative perceptions of black men. 
But it's much deeper than simply getting rid of prisons. The problem is the criminalization of a people. It's all of the things that go into our entertainment and media industries, into the criminal justice system, into how the police treat us on the streets and into politics. All those things are meant to criminalize us and make us feel like our lives are less valued. 

Justice Breyer and Malcolm X: A concurring opinion from the past

“Welcome to Groundhog Day,” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote Monday in a caustic response to Justice Stephen Breyer’s dissent. In the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Glossip v. Gross which reaffirmed states’ right to execute prisoners by lethal injection, Scalia bemoaned what he called a familiar scene in which petitioners “sentenced to die for crimes they committed” appeal to the cruel and unusual punishment clause of the Eighth Amendment. Not only is the scene familiar, so are many of the arguments. Large portions of Breyer’s dissent and Scalia’s response centered on the classical debate over the effectiveness of the death penalty as a deterrent. One long forgotten argument against deterrence theory and capital punishment is buried in the newspaper of the Norfolk Prison Colony (now called the Massachusetts Correctional Institute). The 1949 debate response was written by a 25-year-old prisoner named Malcolm Little, who had already adopted the surname: X.


Cruel and all too usual

Housing juveniles in adult prisons is so widespread that it is not yet a central focus of prison reformers. Read this terrifying investigation into the lives of children in Michigan’s adult system, from Dana Liebelson.


California’s Jail-building Boom

Indio, California – In this desert city halfway between Los Angeles and the Arizona border, a small monument to the state’s prison downsizing experiment is materializing in a shopping center storefront, where former felons will soon have access to health screenings, substance-abuse treatment, job training, therapy, and probation officers who look and sound more like social workers than law enforcement officials.
Less than a mile away, a far more ambitious project is taking shape. Across from the local courthouse, workers will soon break ground on a massive expansion of a county jail, a renovation that will ultimately more than quadruple its size from 353 to 1,626 beds. It’s the first of several jail expansions planned in Riverside County, where the local Sheriff has called for 10,000 new jail beds in the next thirteen years.
Both projects are part of the effort California officials call “realignment” — a sweeping initiative to reduce the overcrowding of state prisons by turning over responsibility for non-violent offenders to the counties from which they came.

Former Silk Road Task Force Agent Pleads Guilty to Extortion, Money Laundering and Obstruction

BP Agrees to Pay $18.7 Billion in Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Suit

The Gulf Coast states and the federal government have reached a tentative settlement with BP for the British oil company to pay $18.7 billion over 18 years, to compensate for damages from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, state officials said Thursday.

“This is a landmark settlement,” Gov. Robert Bentley of Alabama said. “It is designed to compensate the state for all the damages, both environmental and economic.”

The settlement covers suits filed by Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Florida and Alabama as well as the federal government.


Department of Justice report chided police for escalating tension in Ferguson

WASHINGTON — When heavily armed police officers swarmed the streets of Ferguson, Mo., after the fatal shooting last year of a young, unarmed black man, they only worsened tensions and made it harder to regain public confidence and control, a draft report from the Justice Department has concluded.
The report describes a chaotic scene in which the police violated people’s constitutional rights and it was often unclear who was in charge and what the orders were.
Written by the Justice Department’s community policing unit, the report is intended to help police departments improve their policies and tactics. A final version is expected in the coming weeks. It follows two other lengthy Justice Department civil rights reports — the first cleared Officer Darren Wilson of wrongdoing in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, and the second found widespread discrimination within the Ferguson Police Department.

Protest Is The New Terror: Law Enforcement Criminalizing Dissent

 The unique moment created by anti-police brutality protests throughout the U.S. last year – and coming on the heels of a federally coordinated effort to dismantle Occupy encampments in 2011 – revealed that federal police agencies, especially the FBI, working with local police have directed their resources as much against protesters, dissenters and those practicing and civil disobedience as they have against the threat represented by terrorists, whether homegrown “lone wolves" or organized outside groups. While the recent NSA reform bill passed in Congress represents a victory for civil liberties and privacy advocates, there's still a ways to go. Because while the right to dissent remains a fundamental American freedom, the fear of terrorism being openly exploited by law enforcement has allowed police to resurrect COINTELPRO in all but name.


New Report: Building A Movement Together

Over the last decade, the labor movement has begun to transform, rebuilding and reinvigorating itself from the ground level. A decisive element of this transformation is organized labor’s evolving partnership with worker centers. In 2006, the AFL-CIO institutionalized partnerships with worker centers through a process of affiliation. Today, 16 worker centers, 16 central labor councils and one state federation involved in 16 local affiliations are active throughout the country. These partnerships have led to significant accomplishments in local policy campaigns against wage theft and other forms of exploitation against workers, strong solidarity support for organizing efforts to win a union or address conditions in the workplace, and ongoing local joint initiatives that couple collaboration and innovation.


Announcing Cuba Embassy Deal, Obama Declares ‘New Chapter’

WASHINGTON — President Obama on Wednesday announced his plans to formally re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba this month, declaring that the two nations were ready to reopen embassies in each other’s capitals and to start a “new chapter” of engagement after more than a half-century of estrangement.
“Our nations are separated by only 90 miles, and there are deep bonds of family and friendship between our people, but there have been very real, profound differences between our governments, and sometimes we allow ourselves to be trapped by a certain way of doing things,” Mr. Obama said in the Rose Garden at the White House, taking note of the decades of hostility born of the Cold War that prompted the United States to isolate its neighbor to the south, a strategy he said had failed.