Monday, May 5, 2014

When Is Enough Going to Be Enough?

How much are we supposed to take?

Virtually every day we hear stories about cops -- ever more militarized and aggressive -- who grossly overstep their bounds, even to the point of killing defenseless people, yet their deeds consistently go unpunished. Well, today came word that Cecily McMillan, the peaceful Occupy protestor who had her breast grabbed and bruised by a police officer, was found guilty of assaulting that officer.

Keep in mind that McMillan was grabbed from behind, and her natural instinct was to defend herself from an assailant. The cop apparently took an elbow to the eye, even though he couldn't seem to remember which eye when he was testifying. McMillan was promptly thrown to the ground and beaten until she had a seizure and lost consciousness. And she was far from the only victim of police brutality that night in Zuccotti Park.

But none of that mattered in court, since prosecutors and the hostile judge in the case seemed to want to make an example of McMillan and the Occupy movement from the very beginning, as if to send a warning to future protestors that if you attempt to peacefully assemble to speak out against the system, the system will find you and crush you. McMillan's lawyers were gagged, and relevant evidence was suppressed, making it difficult for the jurors to know the full story and practically impossible for proper justice to be served.

The moral of the story: If a cop sexually assaults you, you can go to prison for up to seven years. Welcome to Police State America.

Oh, the cops can assault you, of course. That's perfectly fine. Like in San Diego, where the police blasted a man in the face with pepper spray, slammed his face into the pavement, beat him with a baton, cuffed him, and threw him in jail for five hours. The man's crime? Putting up his hood and not responding when police called to him on the street. And why did he not respond? Because he has Down syndrome and the mental capacity of a 7-year-old. He's also 4-foot-11 and 158 pounds. Clearly a menacing threat to the cops.

Do you think the cop who assaulted this mentally disabled man will go to prison for assault for seven years? Hell, no. At last report, he was still on the job.

Always remember that the police are not there to protect you. The Supreme Court has ruled as much. They are only there to enforce the laws the government passes. And they are clearly free to use as much force as they want to, and often do. After all, who's going to stop them?
awsuit states that the deputy “looked Tony in the face and then unloaded a canister of highly irritating pepper spray into Tony’s face and eyes,” beat him with a weighted baton, slammed his face on the pavement and cuffed him.
awsuit states that the deputy “looked Tony in the face and then unloaded a canister of highly irritating pepper spray into Tony’s face and eyes,” beat him with a weighted baton, slammed his face on the pavement and cuffed him.
awsuit states that the deputy “looked Tony in the face and then unloaded a canister of highly irritating pepper spray into Tony’s face and eyes,” beat him with a weighted baton, slammed his face on the pavement and cuffed him.

The Cecily McMillan travesty follows other recent judicial rulings in which the cops can now pull you over merely for driving in a "stiff" position with your hands at ten and two on the wheel, and you can be stopped and searched on nothing more than someone else's anonymous 911 call. So much for probable cause.

As we await McMillan's sentencing, we would also do well to keep in mind that while she almost certainly faces time behind bars, other people who actually deserve jail time get none. If you're a rich kid, get behind the wheel drunk, and kill four people, you get 10 years of probation and nothing else, because you suffer from "affluenza" and can't discern right from wrong because of your privileged status. Or if you're a wealthy heir to the DuPont family fortune, and you rape your own 3-year-old daughter, you get zero jail time because you wouldn't "fare well" in prison. Eight years of probation is good enough for violating your own 3-year-old child.

But if you elbow somebody who's grabbing your breast, and the assailant happens to be wearing a little tin badge? It's prison for you, after being railroaded in a kangaroo court.

In other acts of judicial malfeasance, the Supreme Court won't hear Chris Hedges' case against NDAA indefinite detention, upholding a lower court's ruling that he and his co-plaintiffs have no standing, in that they can't prove that they face any threat of being detained under the detention provision. Under those requirements, the only person who could ever bring a suit would be someone who's already been detained under the provision -- but the provision indefinitely denies detainees the right to a trial. So there's no way to create "standing," so the law can never be struck down. (Not that the Obama regime would ever let it be struck down, considering the zeal with which the administration has defended it so far -- a zeal that, Hedges believes, suggests that the administration is already holding people under the provision.) Consequently, the American military can now pull you off the street, here in the United States, and lock you away for as long as it wants. And as the executive branch has already shown, it will go so far as to assassinate American citizens without due process.

[Related: Chris Hedges: The Myth of Human Progress and the Collapse of Complex Societies]

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court does everything in its power to tip the tables in favor of the super-wealthy. The poor continue to be marginalized in every imaginable way, not to mention vilified as lazy freeloaders who steal our hard-earned tax dollars -- when it's the super-rich who place the burden of paying for the safety net on the rest of us because they use loopholes and overseas shelters to skip out on paying into the system.

What does our "progressive" president do about all of this? Not a thing. He stands by while the FCC prepares to undermine net neutrality to favor huge corporate interests, after campaigning for president in favor of net neutrality. He signs a farm bill into law that guts food-stamp benefits to the poor, while saying the bill will keep poor people from starving. And he turns the government's illegal surveillance of American citizens into a punchline.

What an embarrassment this man is.

Of course, I'm sure he's happy to have allies in sorry excuses for men like John McCain, who, when it comes to surveillance overreach, tells us it's "something you've got to accept." I wonder if he thinks the people in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and God only knows where else also just need to "accept" having bombs drop on them from Obama's drones, leveling villages and killing women, children, and other innocent bystanders. In case you need a visual representation of how our Peace Prize winner is doing in comparison to his predecessor:

That's more than 2,000 dead on Obama's watch, with over 40 added to the total in April alone.

To top it all off, China is set to overtake us as the world's largest economy, and Canada's middle class has already overtaken us as the world's richest middle class -- even as Canada manages to pay for its citizens' health care and greatly subsidizes college education. Let me put that another way in case it's not clear: Canada makes sure its citizens get the health care they need, without making them worry about how they're going to pay for a massive pile of hospital bills, and it makes college affordable enough that new graduates don't go out into the world burdened by a crushing load of student-loan debt that can't even be discharged in bankruptcy -- and the Canadian middle class is still the richest on the planet. Maybe, just maybe, Canada's tax regulations and spending priorities aren't as screwed up as ours.

As for China ... well, we long ago shipped our manufacturing jobs to China, in a corporate race to the bottom to see who could get the cheapest labor, with no regard for American livelihoods, or Chinese human rights. We're now seeing the end result. Sure, the latest jobs report shows we're creating new positions here in the USA, but most of them are in the low-paying service sector -- things like cashiers and waiters. We simply aren't replacing the higher-paying skilled jobs that we lost. That's why it's such an insult for people to take swipes at service-industry workers and say they don't deserve higher wages, because if they only had the proper skills or drive, they'd have a better job. Well, guess what? Those low-paying jobs are increasingly the only ones available, which is how you end up having people with master's degrees serving coffee at the corner Starbucks. Try supporting a family on $7.25 an hour. And try walking in their shoes before you judge them. Bootstrapping is a nice fantasy, but it's not reality for a lot of people in an economy that's been raped by corporate greed.

[Related: An Apartheid of Dollars: Life in the Minimum-Wage Economy]
Yet when you have somebody come up with an idea to fight back against the oligarchy and dismantle the corporate state, people shoot the messenger and ignore the message. Consider Ralph Nader's new book Unstoppable, in which he argues for creating left-right alliances to fight against corporatism, militarism, civil liberties, and other issues whose solutions can easily transcend one part of the political spectrum. The reviews of the book have been fair enough so far, but the comments sections for most of the online articles invariably take shots at Nader, whether from right-wingers who see him as a left-wing avenger, or from left-wingers who still blame him for the 2000 election -- as if Al Gore was somehow entitled to every vote on the left. Nader calls for us to rise up out of our partisan camps and find common ground for the good of the country, and people respond by doubling down within those same partisan camps.

(Best comment I've seen so far online in response to the knee-jerk Democrats-good-Republicans-bad-Nader-even-worse mentality that keeps people voting for the lesser of two evils: "We definitely need to keep a Democrat in office. I was worried during the last two elections that if a Republican got in office there might be the constant threat of new wars, we might not see the end of Citizens United (or, heaven forbid it may be expanded), there might be increased surveillance, corporations might not lose power, there might be an attempt to establish more 'NAFTA' style free trade agreements, the wage gap would increase, social programs might be cut, and we'd see less government transparency ... what a nightmare that would have been." Ouch. Truth hurts.)

Sadly, to a lot of people in this country, Cecily McMillan got what she deserved, the poor are all lazy freeloaders who just need to work harder, and being ideologically partisan is more important than trying to find common ground with one's opponents for the sake of the greater good. Tea Party activists are derided as ignorant, rednecked "Teabillies" or "Teabaggers" who want to create an American theocracy, while Occupiers are dismissed as violent, clueless college kids who think they're all Marxists but really just need to take a bath and get a job. The stereotyping and incessant juvenile name-calling are enough to wear a person down.

Some days I just lose hope that things will ever get any better.

In fact, if I could, I would simply throw up my hands, leave this mess of a country behind, and never look back.

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