Why God Made Spanish. 

 Spanish Comes Just in Time.


Las Cruces, New Mexico at nightfall. The city is larger than it appears from this distance, with a population of about 125, 000.


Once upon a time, about two and a half months ago, l was stuck in a motel in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where my car had died:  suddenly, without warning, and in the middle of a six lane highway .. wait –

during rush hour. When else?

The cost of the tow truck, a new alternator and the motel bill had left me with exactly $4.26 to my name. Sounds about right. I mean, what’s my point here?

Let’s see..twenty minutes before my car came to a dead stop, I’d been lying in a hospital bed a few blocks away, expecting surgery and rehab for which I’d been waiting three and a half years. I’d prayed only that it wasn’t too late:  that is, I’d certainly been able to walk three and a half years earlier. Had New Mexico’s public health system included actual medical treatment, I’d have been walking long ago.

I shouldn’t have been surprised when I was told there would be another delay, but I was. By now, though, I’ve learned that filing complaints, calling Santa Fe, appealing to state social workers and otherwise pitching a fit are stupid things to do if you are poor in New Mexico. So two nice medics wheeled me out to the hospital parking lot, sort of shoved me into my car, tossed my walker in the back seat and waved as I pulled into rush hour traffic. Hopefully, there’d be someone around to shove me back out of the car when I got home. A few blocks later, my car suddenly slowed down….

And that’s where you came in.


 Five years ago, I stood alone against Vampires Are Us Media Group, aka GateHouse Media and its neoliberal lawyer and/or journalist pals.

At stake was the life of a Mexican-American father who was being framed for murder after he had acted to defend himself from a white supremacist attack .1

During and after the case, I was attacked by a relentless barrage of  lies, threats, retaliation, libel, and textbook defamation. 2

It turns out that the idea of a reporter’s faith in the truth is actually a huge media joke.

Everything that made up my life was smashed and broken in order to destroy my credibility.

After they broke my heart, they broke my back.


No, I didn’t stay in this motel with the cool sign / Google Images

Meanwhile, Business Begins in the Motel Lobby

In spite of the increasingly surreal quality of my world, I nevertheless maintained a dim sense that life went on. For example, I awoke the next day from motel dreams of swerving traffic and began lurching down the hall toward the free breakfast. A sharp flash of pain immediately reminded me that I’d left my walker on the passenger seat of my old Crown Victoria, which had been towed away.  The pain  remarked, in the overly familiar tone of a permanent guest, that the motel hallway had certainly grown longer overnight.  I ignored it hatefully and leaned heavily into the wallpaper, sliding almost horizontally toward the distant lobby.


The breakfast area was a sea of Anglos:  half of them were attending business meetings, and the rest were families on vacation. I looked around for something to help me through the line and as I grabbed a large luggage rack on wheels, I was pierced with longing: a memory of gliding swiftly through  crowds, able to estimate their size,  take photos, grab phone quotes and spot the outside auditors arrive without missing a beat.

DSCF0425 (1)


Then I moved my back the wrong way and cried out as a flash of electricity instantly knocked  me over – I mean way, way over. I was bent completely in half and I couldn’t move.  Everyone just sat and pretended they weren’t looking at me. I looked at the floor because it was all I could see.

“I’ll get to her as soon as I can,” a motel employee said impatiently (and to someone else!) from behind me. Instantly I was resolved not to ask for help.



However, I knew that I would soon fall to the floor, so I rapidly ran through my options. I was fairly sure that if I cried in front of this large group of strangers, I would hurl myself in front of the first rapidly approaching cement truck I could find.
I heard what sounded almost  like a sort of scuffle, and twisted my neck as far as I could.  A man rapidly approached, elbowing  people aside so that he could place a chair under me and – very slowly – help me to sit down.  With the authority of a single gesture, he signaled a passing businessman  to assist him in lifting the chair into an adjourning lounge and getting me onto a couch, Once lying on my side,  the pain soon subsided.



Just shoot me! Oh, never mind, I’ll jump in front of this cement truck.


The man’s name was Ruben, and he was evidently pissed off at the entire breakfast crowd.

(Hey, me too hermano! Over here! I am pissed off too – at everyone. !Mira – aqui!)

?”Usted hablan Espanol?” I asked Ruben. English was not working out for us.

“Si, si!”  he replied enthusiastically and I arranged my brain in preparation.  At least ten or twelve minutes later, however I realized that my brain had bypassed the prep zone and gone, unsupervised, straight to Spanish.


This blew my mind. I’d been speaking Spanish freely and effectively without thinking about it!

Let me tell you, it was like a visit from magic! I shall never forget it. My brain had inexplicably changed in significant, even profound ways, and my world had suddenly become much bigger. Infinitely bigger than if I had suddenly been able to get up and run.




Ruben and I didn’t have a complicated conversation, but it was, by every measure the best kind of conversation because it connected us. He was a Mexican national who had recently taken his time exploring North America’s west coast from Vancouver to San Diego. He said he had seen Mexicans everywhere he went. I told Ruben that I have been studying Pancho Villa and E. Zapata. Some of Villa’s generals were actually Americans – these were by far the most moronic scoundrels in the conflict. ( No, I didn’t say “by far the most moronic scoundrels” in Spanish.)

Villa himself, of course, had the heart of a lion.







When I mentioned the EZLN and “Commandante Marcos”, Ruben gave me a huge smile and a small victory sign. I told him that for 15 years my life’s biggest dream has been to join the Zapatista struggle in some way. Ruben said they are a role model for every resistence struggle in the world. He thought the right-wing coup in Brazil should be a global priority right now, because it represents a huge threat to all of Latin America. Looming right behind that is, of course,  the relentless aggression of the United States.


Zapatista Youth and Women in La Realidad


Hugo Chavez


We ended by vowing that Hugo Chavez will live forever and  the Bolivarian Movement will triumph. The very last thing I told Ruben was that although I was born in New York City, Mexico is the country of my heart. Ruben didn’t roll his eyes. (Thank-you, lord ) Instead he called me a sister of Mexico before disappearing around the corner.


Southern New Mexico Desert / CLAIRE O’BRIEN 2014



That afternoon, I drove north through the bright desert. To the west, eight or ten coyote loped  along at easy pace, out well before sunset and close to the flatland farms they know to be dangerous. They were looking for water.

What I knew had been lost to me:  I didn’t believe it anymore. But Spanish had returned it to me that morning  (or at least pointed the way) because Spanish holds memory forever. It infuses the past into the present until collective memory crackles in the air. As itself a living thing, Spanish recognizes you.

You have to know the way / Claire O'Brien 2012

Claire O’Brien 2012


I was more than halfway home. Although the day remained shining yellow and blue, the earliest signs of  evening had  begun to appear in the western sky – so subtle as to be nearly invisible. By now, Ruben was zipping through West Texas,  heading southeast to San Antonio, where he planned to cross the border at Laredo Nuevo

If only one comrade can hear you, all  can hear you.

Some families are lost to their daughters forever, and some are not. Somewhere, the people are waiting intently for snow.

The last and smallest of the yellow flowers are blooming now in the New Mexico desert,

Still, even in loneliness, no heart beats alone.



Sleeping Indian, Caballo Mountains, Sierra County


!JaJaJaJaJa! (Ha, ha, ha!)   That is the sound of my remembered laughter. No matter what anyone says, it is also the sound of Sandinistas laughing from far away.





Was it magic? Well, my Spanish adventure hasn’t happened again – not like that, not that way.  For the most part, except for the common exchanges of daily life, and a political vocabulary known to all, my road to Spanish  remains a careful and deliberate, albeit always generous one.

But hey! Don’t you know that God sends Spanish just in time?





These are meant for readers interested in further clarification, and supplement the numbered statements above.  

111. Media and popular support for my refusal to identify a confidential source evaporated in the face of my conviction for contempt of court. Without my knowledge, First Amendment stars such as Harvey Silverglate and Lucy Dalglish joined corporate media lawyers in a behind-the-scenes effort to force my testimony. This is in and of itself a basis for disbarring all attorney on both sides.

2 Worse, the coverup was itself a series of flagrant federal civil rights law violations that propelled  already alarming evidence of entrenched press/corporate corruption into a much more chilling sphere.  It revealed that non-profit public policy giants such as the ACLU have a real disregard for both the First Amendment and sections of federal civil rights law. It’s a disregard as genuine as that displayed by the most recalcitrant corporate offenders.



The Murder of Black Children Continues

GOLDIE TAYLOR, The Daily Beast

What Happened to Gynnya McMillen in Jail?
Gynnya McMillen had never been arrested before when she was taken to a Kentucky juvenile detention center. Hours later, the 16-year-old was dead, and no one will say why.
Mothers are not meant to bury their daughters.
It has been just over two weeks since the family of Gynnya McMillen gathered in the pews of Fifth Street Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, to pray and weep over her casket, and nearly three weeks since the 16-year-old was found dead in a county juvenile detention center on Jan. 11. Officials in north central Kentucky said Gynnya simply died in her sleep and that there was no evidence of foul play.
A state investigation is underway, but the notion that she may have been killed by the very people sworn to serve and protect her is almost too horrendous to swallow. There is nothing simple about the way Gynnya died, nor should anyone readily accept that the death of an otherwise healthy teenager is anything but foul.

Gynnya wasn’t hit by a speeding car. She did not commit suicide. There was no suddenly rupturing brain aneurysm, and she did not have a heart attack.
Clearly, lethal harm came to Gynnya, and we should be able to identify and name it. Her mother deserves to know what happened to her child. She deserves to know what became of her daughter—from the moment on Jan. 10 that the teenager stepped into the squad car that took her to a detention center until her lifeless body was wheeled into a coroner’s wagon the next day.
We should not rest until someone answers for that.
Gynnya was locked up for roughly 14 hours in the Lincoln Village Juvenile Detention Center in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, where she was sequestered alone in a holding cell, despite departmental policy. And as she lay alone and dying, videotapes reveal that facility staffers never performed the required physical checks overnight.
By 10 a.m. on Jan. 11, Gynnya was reportedly unresponsive when a guard attempted to physically wake her up. The detention center’s staff waited a full 11 minutes—and only after a delayed call to 911—before finally attempting resuscitation. There were reportedly no signs of bruising or trauma and no known medical issues, such as a heart condition, that might have hastened her death.
Reginald Windham, a 10-year employee with the center, has been placed on paid administrative leave for failing to check on Gynnya every 15 minutes as required for juveniles held in isolation. A state Justice Cabinet Secretary asked for an expedited investigation, including a full autopsy.
Little is known about what prompted her confinement, except that an alleged “domestic dispute” at her mother’s house on Jan. 10 resulted in a misdemeanor assault charge. Gynnya had been previously removed from her mother’s custody and placed at Home For Innocents, a residential group foster care facility for abused, abandoned, or neglected children in nearby Louisville.
The officers responding to the McMillen’s Shelbyville home that Sunday called a court-designee, who had the power to make legal decisions in cases involving juveniles. A local judge honored a request for detention.
Once in custody, Gynnya was not violent but purportedly refused to take off a hooded sweatshirt during a pat-down search. According to Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, officers “took her down” using an “Aikido restraint” move.
“The youth’s repeated refusal to cooperate with staff and remove her outer garment prompted the restraint,” a Department of Juvenile Justice said, by “multiple staff… to ensure the safety of youth and staff.”
The sweatshirt was ultimately removed. Gynnya was then searched and photographed.
However, the force used in this case defies every known public policy—for non-violent juveniles like Gynnya, it is recommended simply that they be segregated from others and talked through to a resolution. According to available reports, Gynnya never assaulted or attempt to assault any of the staffers.

It was her first and last arrest. Gynna never woke up that Monday morning. She never saw the sun rise.
Save for a smattering of blog posts and a few local news stories, her name—Gynnya Hope McMillen—has escaped our national consciousness. Maybe it is because we cannot imagine ourselves in her shoes.
We cannot imagine dying over a sweatshirt. We cannot imagine what it might mean to be a black girl in Shelby County, Kentucky or in a largely white town with a population of less than 15,000. Maybe we cannot imagine ourselves neglected or abused and living in a group home. Or that someone might think so little of our lives that they would break department policy and not think to check on our welfare. Maybe it’s because we cannot imagine why somebody waited so long to call 911 or render medical aid.
Maybe it’s because we cannot imagine what it’s like to be left to die.

Contributed by Paul Seimering

This Is Our Selma

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II /Common Dreams

North Carolina’s Moral Monday movement has been tens of thousands into the streets to protest the repressive policies passed by the GOP government. (Photo: twbuckner/cc/flickr)

In 2006 the U.S. Senate unanimously voted to re-authorize the prized 1964 Voting Rights Act and President George W. Bush signed it. After the first Black President won two elections, five U.S. Supreme Court justices over-ruled 98 senators and gutted the law.

Their ruling, called Shelby, two years ago opened the floodgates, giving the green light to state legislators throughout the South. One North Carolina state senator even declaring that Shelby had removed the “headache” of pre-clearance. The right wing that had seized Mr. Lincoln’s party was turned loose to wage war on our sacred right to vote. These extremists filed a 14-page voter suppression bill on April 4, 2013, the 45th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and added 57-pages of anti-democracy laws, with a single purpose: to abridge and shrink the growing electorate of color. Two hours after Gov. McCrory signed it into law, the North Carolina NAACP filed a lawsuit.

Monday, July 13, 2015, is the day of reckoning. Today we go to trial. Tens of thousands are joining us in the streets. This is our Selma.

The NC NAACP together with the Advancement Project, U.S. Department of Justice and other vulnerable voters will enter the Federal Court in Winston-Salem to put into the record evidence that shows these 57-pages are designed to slash democracy in North Carolina, particularly voting rights for people of color.

From cutting same-day registration, early voting by a week, early registration for all high school 16- and 17-year-olds, to requiring new hurdles for obtaining photo IDs which some 300,000 North Carolinian African Americans, Latino and older voters (even those who have voted for years) will have trouble completing. Add to all this, allowing poll watchers from anywhere to intimidate voters of color (we are easy to spot) at the polls.

This is precisely why voter suppression laws are so underhanded and so dangerous to our American democracy. Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act protects voters against any law that makes it disproportionately harder for voters of color to participate. This standard is not about whether voter suppression tactics make it impossible to vote. The lawmakers who crafted that 57-page bag of tricks had sense enough to know not to say: “You are black, and therefore we are taking away your right to vote.” Even North Carolina’s legislators know they must stick to code-words and code-policies today.

When they held their hearings on the bill, scores of witnesses presented evidence that showed the new restrictions would make it “disproportionately harder for voters of color” to participate in the electoral process. Every legislator knew the restrictions would abridge our right to vote. They chose to pass it anyway.

Perhaps they knew their days were numbered if a fair voting system remained in place. Perhaps they were aware that same day registration, early voting, and provisional balloting made it easier for everybody — particularly poor and working people with children — to vote. Perhaps they had seen that these alternatives made it possible for working people who could not get off work to vote on Tuesday, voted in the thousands on Saturdays and Sundays. Turnout among North Carolina’s black voters skyrocketed, from 41.9 percent in 2000 to 68.5 percent in 2012, when 70 percent of African Americans used early voting. Although African Americans comprise 22 percent of North Carolina voters, they made up 41 percent of voters who used same-day registration. And we cast out-of-precinct ballots at twice the rate of White voters.

Black voters, in particular, need alternative voting measures because, after almost four centuries of exploitation and oppression, many of our sisters and brothers continue to lag behind whites in income, education, access to transportation and residential stability.

North Carolina is the test case for the national anti-democracy forces who desperately seek to constrict the new, multi-cultural, southern electorate. North Carolina may be the state with the worst anti-voter laws on its books today, but these voter suppression tricks have been exported to one southern state after another, with a confederate flag brazenness.

Now, like Selma in 1965, the moral call is central to the gains our courageous elders made toward achieving some justice and equality. Citizens from North Carolina and across the U.S., with attorneys and faith leaders at their side, are in Winston-Salem to wage a pivotal state fight. The outcome in Winston-Salem will impact voting rights across the nation.

It’s a sad and shameful truth that 50 years after the bloodshed in Selma — 50 years after our prized Voting Rights Act — African Americans have fewer, not more, voting protections today. This is a moral struggle. We call on people of faith and moral character to unite. Once again, we must put on our marching shoes. Once again, we must sound the clarion trumpets in the name of liberty, and justice, and the right to vote, for all.


The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II is the architect of the Forward Together Moral Monday Movement, president of the North Carolina NAACP and pastor of the Greenleaf Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Goldsboro.




AMY GOODMAN: The U.S. Justice Department has concluded that the police and city courts in Ferguson, Missouri, routinely engaged in a pattern and practice of discrimination against African Americans. Despite comprising about 66 percent of the local population, African Americans accounted for 93 percent of arrests, 88 percent of incidents where force was used, 90 percent of citations and 85 percent of traffic stops. The Justice Department, which launched its report after the police killing of Michael Brown, also uncovered at least three municipal Ferguson emails containing racist language or images.



“The report does not give me hope. What gives me hope is that people across America are finally waking up,” says Michelle Alexander, author of the best-selling book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. “There is a system of racial and social control in communities of color across America. … What we see now is that we do have the power to make things change. The question is are we going to transition from protest politics to long-term, strategic movement building?”




JUAN GONZÁLEZ: The U.S. Justice Department has concluded that police and city courts in Ferguson, Missouri, routinely engaged in a pattern and practice of discrimination against African Americans. Attorney General Eric Holder ordered the report—that’s being issued today—after the police shooting of unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown last August. Brown’s death sparked months of protests in Ferguson and around the country. In a separate report, the Justice Department is expected to clear the police officer, Darren Wilson, of civil rights violations in the shooting of Brown.

The Justice Department study of Ferguson’s records from 2012 to 2014 found African Americans made up 93 percent of arrests in Ferguson while accounting for only 67 percent of the population. In addition, the report found in 88 percent of the cases in which Ferguson police used force, it was against African Americans, and all 14 cases of police dog bites involved blacks.


AMY GOODMAN: Investigators also found that African Americans constituted 96 percent of people arrested in traffic stops solely for an outstanding warrant, 95 percent of jaywalking charges, 94 percent of failure-to-comply charges, 92 percent of all disturbing-the-peace charges. With traffic stops, African-American motorists are twice as likely to be searched when pulled over, even though searches of white drivers are more likely to turn up drugs or other contraband.

The Justice Department report uncovered at least three municipal Ferguson emails containing racist language or images. One email sent by a Ferguson police or municipal court official joked in 2008 Barack Obama would not remain as president for long because, quote, “what black man holds a steady job for four years.” Another email suggested more abortions by African-American women would lower crime. It read, quote, “An African-American woman in New Orleans was admitted into the hospital for a pregnancy termination. Two weeks later she received a check for $5,000. She phoned the hospital to ask who it was from. The hospital said, ‘Crimestoppers.’?” A third email uncovered in the Ferguson probe included a cartoon depicting African Americans as monkeys. It has not been revealed yet who wrote those emails.

The Justice Department report has renewed calls for police accountability from activists and those close to Michael Brown’s family. This is St. Louis City Alderman Antonio French, followed by Brown family attorney Anthony Gray.

Outrage In Missouri Town After Police Shooting Of 18-Yr-Old Man

ANTONIO FRENCH: To me, that demands a certain level of accountability, and I think the chief out there has to resign. It’s the only way that this community can move forward.

ANTHONY GRAY: No shock here at all, no surprise, as we have to take now what is publicly known to be a situation, come up with solutions, then execute whatever those solutions are, go back and measure the results, and then see if we made some progress from there.


AMY GOODMAN: For more, we’re joined by Michelle Alexander,civil rights advocate, author of the best-selling book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. She’s a law professor at Ohio State University. Her New York Times op-ed in November was titled “Telling My Son About Ferguson.”

Welcome back to Democracy Now!

MICHELLE ALEXANDER: I’m happy to be here.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s great to have you with us. I know you’re giving two major addresses here in New York, at Union Theological Seminary tonight and then Friday night at Columbia University. But let’s start with that op-ed. What did you tell your son about Ferguson?

MICHELLE ALEXANDER: Well, it’s difficult, you know, as a mother to have to tell your son, my 10-year-old son, that I knew that the officer who shot Michael Brown wouldn’t be charged. And I knew it before the grand jury came back. I knew it before the Justice Department announced that it wouldn’t be filing charges. I knew it because police officers are almost never charged for killing unarmed black men. And that’s the way it is in this country. And it was incredibly difficult to tell him that. And I found, as I began to talk to him about the realities of race and justice in America, that I was tempted to lie. I was tempted to say, “No, really, nothing like that could ever happen to you, son.” And yet, unfortunately, today, in this current era, you know, a time of so-called colorblindness, the age of Obama, parents have to have conversations with their children that are eerily reminiscent of the kinds of conversations parents had to have with their kids decades ago. And so, it’s my hope—really, my prayer—that the uprising we saw in Ferguson is the beginning of a new, bold, radical, courageous movement for justice that will ensure that parents in the future don’t have to tell their children that in the eyes of their law they don’t matter.


JUAN GONZÁLEZ: When you talk about parents having to have these

conversations with their children, notably, here in New York City, the mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, discussed that very issue in the midst of the Ferguson protests about having to have a conversation with his biracial son about watching out for interactions with police, and he took enormous heat and enormous attacks by the local police union over even daring to talk about that. I’m wondering your reaction when you heard about that.

MICHELLE ALEXANDER: Well, telling the truth isn’t popular today. That’s the reality. And I think, though, what we’ve seen, you know, in recent months is the necessity of telling the truth. You know, I look at what’s gone down in the last few months, and it seems clear to me that, first and foremost, change comes when people stand up, speak unpopular truths and are willing to take real risks in the name of justice. There is no way that the Justice Department would have investigated what was going on in Ferguson, you know, if the young people there hadn’t stood up and taken to the streets.

1408535806009-ferguson082014-010 (1)

And what the Justice Department report demonstrates is that we’re not crazy. You know, the young people in Ferguson, the old people in Ferguson, who said, “We feel like we’re living in occupied territory,” were telling the truth. You know, we have some sense now, based on this report, of why Michael Brown might have been so frustrated and so angry when he was being harassed by the police for jaywalking. You get some sense of what’s really going on in these communities. And so, you know, we’re not crazy. There is a system of racial and social control in communities of color across America.

And if we don’t stand up, speak unpopular truths, take to the streets and organize, things aren’t going to change. But, you know, what we see now is that we do have the power to make things change. And the question is: Are we going to transition from protest politics to long-term, strategic movement building?

000-0317144014 (458x340)MIKE

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, you mentioned jaywalking. I mean, I was struck in this report by the figures that 94 percent of all the people arrested for jaywalking, you’d think the most inconsequential of misdemeanors or violations, were African-American. And as if the—clearly, African Americans don’t jaywalk at a greater percentage than white Americans. It’s just astonishing that even in jaywalking you’d see this enormous disparity.

MICHELLE ALEXANDER: Absolutely, but you see that disparity right here in New York City, as well. You know, I think it’s so important that we don’t think of this as a problem in Ferguson that is somehow unique to that community. You know, thanks to “broken windows” policing here in New York City, you have statistics that rival the ones that we see in Ferguson. You know, the New York Civil Liberties Union issued a report showing that here in New York City more than 80 percent of those who are issued summons for things like jaywalking, you know, are people of color. And the revenue streams that fund the criminal courts in New York City, just like those in Ferguson, come from poor people paying tickets for minor offenses that are being enforced against them but aren’t being enforced in other parts of town.


AMY GOODMAN: And we see that it’s lethal. I mean, the jaywalking, which is so minor—what exactly was Michael Brown stopped for by Darren Wilson?


AMY GOODMAN: Because he was walking in the middle of the road. And being there—I mean, this was not a very trafficked road; it was a back road to the main roads. And the fact that these two young men were simply walking on the street. Now, how is it—you’re an attorney, you clerked for Justice Blackmun—how is it that Darren Wilson didn’t get charged with violating civil rights, let alone indicted, but now the Ferguson police, the courts are found to be systematically discriminating against, and those figures are being cited, like stopping an African American for jaywalking?

MICHELLE ALEXANDER: Yes, well, I mean, I think what we have here is a unwillingness, an unwillingness to hold individual officers accountable for the unjustified lethal force that is being used against, you know, African-American men and others. I mean, we’ve seen, you know, what’s happened with Latinos in other parts of the country. This isn’t just limited to black men. And we see also this kind of force has been used against women, black women. But, you know, I think what we see here is an unwilling to hold individual officers accountable even in the face of overwhelming evidence that the system as a whole is discriminatory.


AMY GOODMAN: Does this report give you any hope, as you talk to your son now? I mean, no, Darren Wilson was not indicted. No, he wasn’t found guilty of violating the civil rights of Michael Brown. But now this report is coming out today that says the Ferguson police and the city courts do violate the rights of African Americans.

MICHELLE ALEXANDER: No, the report doesn’t give me hope. What gives me hope is that people across America are finally waking up. That’s what gives me hope. A single report, even a single indictment, isn’t going to make a difference unless people become organized and commit themselves to the hard work of movement building on behalf of poor people of all colors. And I see that beginning, and that’s what gives me hope.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And yet these kinds of shootings continue. We had the—in Pasco, Washington, Antonio Zambrano-Montes shot by the police this past Sunday.


police-shooting-missouri (1)

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: In Los Angeles, a homeless man in Los Angeles shot—again, caught on video once again—by police. So, we have these continuing incidents occurring.

MICHELLE ALEXANDER: And they will continue. They absolutely will continue, until we move beyond the sporadic protests that occur to serious movement building. And I think that’s the challenge. And I think it’s also important that we not get too easily satisfied with minor reforms or when, you know, the Justice Department says, “Well, here’s a report,” or, “We’re going to file one suit.” No, the kind of change that needs to happen in our police departments and our criminal justice system as a whole is of such a scale that it is not going to happen merely by, you know, the good intentions—

AMY GOODMAN: With a consent decree?


MICHELLE ALEXANDER: With—right, with a single consent decree or good intentions of some legislators tinkering around the edges. We need transformational change of our criminal justice system, not just, you know, a handful of consent decrees or policy reforms.

AMY GOODMAN: So we’re going to talk about what that transformational change would look like. We’ve been talking to Michelle Alexander, civil rights advocate, author of the best-selling book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. She’s a law professor at Ohio State University in Columbus.

Creative Commons LicenseNATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO ~ The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

If there were comrades: a political critique of the Left



Our political convictions have endured because we have seen the same oppressive dynamics played out over and over and over again. Every gain we have ever made has been based on strategies developed from the  predictability of repression. Defending those gains would be impossible if we were surprised by each new form of the same, historic, relentless attack. We don’t have to figure out and agree on what to do each time. We have learned to anticipate, predict, and sometimes even prevent such attacks.
That is how the true Left tradition developed, and why certain standards prevail.

We do not have to like or even know someone to understand that when he is attacked in specific ways, in  specific political contexts, we must immediately respond as if we are all being attacked – because we are. Any one of us could be next.



If we have privilege, we are obliged to use it to protect those who do not, even if this means we risk, and then lose it – because we know we aren’t supposed to have it in the first place.
The first responsibility we have when such a person is  isolated and attacked as an individual is to reject the focus on her personal flaws as irrelevant and divisive. But when that focus  draws upon the power of a widespread social bias, such as that which so burdens those with race, ethnic, class, gender, and  disability labels, our condemnation of it should be particularly sharp and immediate.
The standard is simple:  if a pattern of treatment deviating from the documented norm is established, then usually discrimination is established. Supporters and their social milieu wind up as enablers and even facilitators of this discrimination if they hold the targeted person to a higher standard of proof,  remain doubtful in the face of evidence that would otherwise persuade them,  hesitate to respond to critical developments and incidents that would otherwise alert them to action,  and reject the person’s  analysis of the case in the face of a proven expertise to which they would otherwise have bowed.
Not taking the targeted person seriously, deciding that the treatment  received must have been warranted by their own behavior, and accepting for them results that “comrades” would not for a moment accept for themselves or for most others – this is the second class citizenship produced by true discrimination. No matter how unjust it would be for people like themselves, it’s to be expected for those whose reach for full human rights exceeds what the world is willing to grant them.
There cannot and will not be any viable resistence to the approaching whirlwind of global aggression if the present version of the western Left does not once and for all commit itself wholeheartedly to rooting out the oppressive dynamics it has appropriated for its own  indefensible gains.
That’s what the elite wants us to do. Keep it up and you, too will learn what it is to be picked off like fish in a proverbial barrel.
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 Good luck with that.

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Both corporate media interests and the ACLU have welcomed this recently released photo of journalist Claire O’Brien at age three, as vindication of their campaign to oust O’Brien from the industry. O’Brien (front row , far L) is pictured with a small cell of communist spies, including her parents, operating out of a rural base in western Massachusetts. (Her father is not shown here)



My siblings and I began belting out our favorite Commie song when we were six  or so. I felt very sophisticated about Harry as I  turned eight, for by then I understood that the song was something of an inside joke – and I was able to sort of  get  the joke on its most elementary level. As well, my brothers and I were  big hams, and the roars of  laughter and applause that greeted our renditions of Harry would have kept us singing all night if we had not  been ordered to bed at what we considered to be an outrageously early hour.


Harry Pollitt was a workman, one of Lenin’s lads

But he was fouly murdered by those counter-revolutionary cads.

So Harry went to heaven, he reached the Gates with ease,

Said, “May I talk with Comrade God?  I’m Harry Pollitt please.”

“Who are you‘?  said Saint Peter, “Are you humble and contrite?”

“I’m a friend of Lady Astors.”   “Well, OK. that’s quite alright. “


and his wife Nadezhda, Kashino, Russia, 14 November 1920. Artist: Anon

Lenin (center), some of his lads, and his wife Nadezhda, Kashino, Russia, 14 November 1920. Artist: Anon


They put Harry in the choir, but the hymns he did not like

So he organized the angels and he led them out on strike

One day when God was walking round heaven to meditate,

Who should he see but Harry chalking slogans on the gate?



May Day, 1922


They brought him up for trial before the Holy Ghost

For spreading disaffection amongst the heavenly host.

The verdict it was guilty, Harry said “Oh, well’

He tucked his nightie round his knees and he drifted down to Hell




Seven long years have passed, Harry’s doing swell:

They just made him First People’s Commissar of Soviet Hell.


Bread and Roses


Well the moral of this story is an easy one to tell:

If you want to be a Bolshevik, you’ll have to go to Hell

You’ll have to go to Hell, you’ll have to go to Hell!

If you want to be a Bolshevik,  you’ll have to go to Hell.


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Woolen Mill, Ware, Massachusetts /Google Images


My father painted the entire chimney of this woolen mill – all by himself



This world that’s owned by parasites is ours and ours  alone

It is ours, not to slave in, but to master and to own.

In our hands we hold a power greater than their  hoarded gold.

We can bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old.

_From Solidarity Forever_

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The Eric Gill Community

Straight out of Ferguson: An American Vanguard



J O H N ET T A   E L Z I E

Tonight we will be brave.

Mike Brown, Kajieme Powell,  Vonderitt  Myers:  rest  in power,  young kings.

You ask me, “What about property?”, my rebuttal will always be, “What about people?”

Take your tricks elsewhere.

America doesn’t know what to do when it can’t consciously call black people property, so there’s this obsession with buildings instead of people.

Don’t ask me anything else about fucking spray paint on a wall unless we’re going to talk about graffiti WORLDWIDE.


Ferguson is a community full of babies, children, teenagers, young adults, and elders. A neighborhood in mourning, greeted by a clear violation of their human rights.

I am upset to know that my people seem to not even have the right to hurt, to feel, to care, to show love, to be with one another, or to mourn the loss of another Black life. Watching children, teenagers and elderly people running for their lives with rubber bullets flying and hitting people anywhere on their body,

 is heartbreaking. When I close my eyes at night, I see people running from tear gas in their own neighborhood. It’s a haunting experience to remember– running and hiding from the police, trying to stay alive

I didn’t expect to go from a peaceful protester trying to attend a vigil for a young teen gunned down, to a modern day freedom rider. But I am prepared to stay the course and fight as long as we must.

L A R R Y   F L O WE R  S   l l l
What are they really preparing for? They know we’re angry. They know we’re upset. They know we have a legitimate reason to be uneasy right now.
But they don’t seem to understand that people are mourning.

 Being shot at with rubber bullets, having M-16s aimed at me, seeing armored vehicles and being tear gassed just showed me we must be able to fight for our constitutional rights without being terrorized by the police. That’s initially when I became upset and angry with everything that was going on.

We are being painted as violent, but when you look at photos: Who’s been showing up with gear? Who’s been showing up with weapons? It’s been the police.

A L E X S I S   T E M P L E T O N  

I was told by police officers if I crossed an invisible line they created in front of the Clayton Justice Center, I would be arrested. I looked down to where the officer pointed his finger and walked over the line with my hands up, chanting “This is what democracy looks like.” I was held, processed, booked and released within a few hours.

 This is what taking a stand looks like. This is what fighting for your life, and the lives of those to come after you, looks like.

 I wake up every morning, fighting the best way I know how.  I wake up each morning, fighting to prevent another family from having to grieve the loss of their child due to his or her skin color. I fight for justice for this young man, because his parents deserve the moment they are able to finally grieve, peacefully, for their child.

I fight because it is my duty.



D E R A Y   M C K E S S O N

We protest because we have fought back tears for long enough — now we fight the system. We protest so that our hearts won’t split wide open from the pain of loving dead children.

It is not that we are unafraid of jail or death. It is that we are more afraid of the cost of silence in America.

I don’t have my bag with my glasses. Nose running. Eyes sting. Tear gas.

Daddy, your love made me understand the transformative power of love and grace. Every time we are together, I know joy.

I actually just want to cry. I want to cry because of all of the rage of being an American and being tear gassed. I AM HEARTBROKEN TO BE AN AMERICAN. MY FACE BURNS. MY EYES WATER. I AM AN AMERICAN. BUT I’M BLACK.

Tear gas stings. And it stings to be an American tonight. Heartbroken. See, that’s what I get for thinking I was ever safe. I was literally in the coffee shop sitting down on the phone. Then, tear gas

 What comes next? This is a living movement. We’ll create what comes next, together


M O L L Y    G R I E D E  R 

“It is well with my soul” has been playing in my head, despite my anxiety. We are on the side of freedom & of hope

My thoughts are with Ms. McSpadden, Mr. Brown & their families. Mike Brown should be alive. Darren Wilson should be in jail.

My thoughts are with my city. And everyone in it.

I feel for the business owners and their employees who will suffer.

I feel for those whose anger manifested itself in property damage. Their actions are not okay, but their rage is justified.

My thoughts are with all of the black women, men & children who’ve been told again and again that they are less than.


To those who that night put their history on their backs, to those who  took lightning and thunder into their hands, to those whose boots were shod with the future, to those who covered their faces, and to those who, without asking anything in return, walked and fought through the long nights so that others, everyone, on a morning still to come, will be able to see the day as it should be seen, that is to say, from the front, standing, and  with an upright gaze and heart.

“For them we cry, Freedom! Freedom! FREEDOM! May our steps be as great as our dead.”

Marcos, Member of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN)



They call us thieves, but we did not rob and murder millions of Indians by ripping off their homeland, then call ourselves pioneers. They call us bandits, but it is not we who are robbing Africa, Asia, and Latin America of their natural resources and freedom while the people who live there are sick and starving. The rulers of this country and their flunkies have committed some of the most brutal, vicious crimes in history. They are the bandits. They are the murderers. And they should be treated as such. These maniacs are not fit to judge me or any other Black person on trial in amerika.

 Assata  Shakur
M I C H A E L    BR O W N
1996 ~ 2014
Ferguson, Missouri
R E S T  IN  PEA C E, M I K E – M I K E 


Photos One, Two, Three, and Five – Emily Kassie/The Huffington Post)
Photos Six and Seven – New  York Times 
 Photo Eight – Claire O’Brien
Photo Four – info unknown
Mike Brown Photo  – Brown family via Google Images

Tracking Truth: a final report to the fan club’s membership from its national president




I was a lot smarter before I was recruited by the American Chapter of Truth’s International Fan Club. Until then, I like to think I did my share of big thinking. Well, not BIG thinking, but certainly nuanced, certainly multi-dimensional, characterized by a superior plasticity capable of applied abstraction,  theoretical awe, and the synthesis of five or six simultaneous subtexts with their oppositional intersections.


Things got more complicated (but not more complex) and more simplistic following my election by acclamation to the club’s presidency two years ago. Now, when it comes to Truth, I spend most of my time on the intellectual equivalent of a middle school playground.   Over and over, I tell the same simple story of an outrageous bluff pulled off by a powerful media elite for the specific purpose of permanently discrediting me. Over and over I point out the swift efficiency with which a handful of people achieved immediate and unquestioned national media compliance. Over and over I explain that this shows an already entrenched and systemic corruption far worse than the  American public imagines.
 I’m neither believed nor told why. The narrative itself bores me to the brink of shutting down my brain, while remaining inexplicably exhausting. At times I can actually feel my brain shrink as I brace myself to repeat a basic point to someone who already understands it perfectly.
Yet I’m back again every time the recess bell rings


Some say that I’ve developed into one of those obsessed fans, the kind whose loyalty and dedication devolves into a variation of obstructive stalking that all celebrities dread.
 Although my time on the playground may have produced a certain degree of myopia in my perception, I don’t see it, myself.


The fact is, I haven’t stalked Truth so much as tried to keep track of it. Frankly, I’d had no idea that it was so absent-minded, nor so anonymous and scruffy: I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Truth wandered off unnoticed someday and forgot to return. I’ll admit that I do tend to hover a bit; however, I strongly deny all rumors of that electronic tracking device trending on Twitter last month.



 My critics, like most people, are completely unaware of the responsibilities of a national fan club president. Lord knows the job is a thankless task: just ask the presidents of the Ayn Rand, Vanilla Ice, and Door to Door Encyclopedia Salesmen fan clubs.

2014 National Convention of the American Chapter of Truth’s International Fan Club

 For example, at our club’s last national convention, I had to break up fist fights over jazz fusion, the gold standard, and the Chicago Cubs, then kick out the usual spies from the ACLU, and ban as frivolous the introduction of a resolution that “Truth is beauty, beauty truth, etc”.
On top of that, I spent half the convention dealing with the Christian delegates alone: first, I barred them as a body until they submitted a group statement admitting Christianity’s historic proximity to, and familiarity with, Islāmic doctrine and culture – dating from the latter’s earliest emergence 600 years after that of Christianity’s.
I also suspended the club’s Protestant fundamentalists until they could describe the Reformation’s role in 19th century American radical abolitionism.

The great abolitionist and international hero John Brown. Now THERE’s a Protestant!

 By this time, all the anarchists, hip-hop artists, Palestinian children, Mississippi River tug boat crews and insane poets had left the building. As I watched them leave from an upper window, my heart filled with love, and then sank. I was left to deal, ungraciously, with a squabble between several prominent physicists and a group of Staten Island ninth graders.
The teenagers’ claim to have located the planet Krypton within a parallel universe met with vehement opposition by the scientists, who insisted that Krypton is actually located in our own galaxy.
I’m just saying.
Anyway, I didn’t want Truth to lose its morale, which is why the paparazzi caught me trying to poke a housewarming gift of homemade brownies through Truth’s living room window recently. I was only trying to cheer it up.
Instead, Truth served me with another restraining order. Just my luck – only two months after the last one expired. I mean, jeesh! Who knew that climbing seven little stories would get people so worked up?

The work of a fan club president never ends.




As I told the nice firemen, I thought all those people were pointing upward because that weapon of mass destruction disguised as a kite was floating by – you know, the one smuggled in by the seven-year-old Guatemalan twins picked up by the Border Patrol recently.

More sensible neighbors climbed out of their windows to join me in a delicious snack of brownies

“Thank God the CIA told the New York Times not to fall for the kids’ ridiculous claim to be “looking for Mommy,” said the fire captain with feeling.”Every time I send my people into a burning building, I remember that a free press is worth defending.”

I saw that he had tears in his eyes and looked around somewhat desperately for Truth. It met my eyes through the thick window glass and shrugged hopelessly.
 Then Truth closed the curtains.
But not before taking a big bite of one of my brownies.

My last glimpse of Truth on the balcony



Ma’at, Egyptian goddess of Truth

You know, frankly, I think Truth tends to over-react. The respective presidents of the Justice, Wisdom, and Beauty fan clubs all say it should appreciate a fan club president like me.
“You won’t catch us baking brownies for the old goats,” they said.
“Are you calling Justice an old goat?” I gasped.
“I am,” replied the Justice Fan Cub president, a nice man named Fred.  “In fact, that was my campaign slogan: ‘Justice is an old goat’ “.


I stared at Fred as he told me that his club had done a lot of housecleaning.
“The first thing we did was kick out all the nonprofits who work for justice. We banned Progressives who couldn’t define that political identity with more precision, the Peace Corps, and any group that published photos of villagers gathered around drinking wells it had funded” he said.”That was a good start. Then we elected a big slate of new officers: fast food workers, Honduran children, prostitutes, Zapatistas,  mental patients, West Virginia coal miners, junkies, teenage gangsters, convicts and welfare mothers. Things have really been looking up for us ever since.”
A new member of the Justice Fan Club’s steering committee, representing Delaware.
 West Virginia’s coal miners survived by laboring to destroy both the mountains they love (see below) and their own bodies. Now used up by the coal companies just like other commodities, they are left to die of Black Lung Disease, with no income and no possibility of employment, surrounded by the corpses of mountains that provided generations with abundant game, fish, medicinal plants, and firewood.
 This is the result of Mountain Top Removal Mining, which literally removes the tops of mountains, gutting the interior and making recovery impossible.
A former coal miner from the town of Appalachia, West Virginia, is the new national treasurer of the Justice Fan Club. He is planning a class action suit against the Empire Coal Company and has organized a fiddle manufacturing collective.
As Fred and I wound up our conversation, I had an idea.
Hmm. Maybe –
Fred read my mind.
“You know, I think you’ve been barking up the wrong tree,” he said kindly, as he handed me a business card.”Why don’t you check these people out? Truth and Justice can kill people like you.”
The card Fred gave me was deep blue with small gold lettering and a graphic depicting the earth revolving around the sun.
“International Fans of Verifiable Facts” I read.”Access to existing legal systems is good enough for us”
Below it, bold italics proclaimed “Personal opinions not sought. Excessive and  redundant proof not provided. Discriminatory screening standards not  accommodated. Agreements re. political support constitute an obligation to honor them.”
I’m going to my first meeting next week.
Fred made me promise not to run for president.
My last official act as president of the American chapter of Truth’s International Fan
Club was to send Truth on vacation to a distant, peaceful beach.
I got an email just yesterday.
“Having a nice time” Truth wrote, “I needed a rest. Sort of miss you.
Almost wish you were here.”
Same here, old pal.