Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A More Virtuous Life... A Worthwhile Resolution

“The essence of greatness is the perception that virtue is enough…” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Virtue is defined as: moral goodness; upright living; righteousness. It is the conduct of one’s life in accordance with principles of Righteousness. It is doing to others as you would have them do to you. Virtue challenges us to lift each other up in the face of circumstances that are down-pressing. Virtue is that light in the darkness that warms the cold, comforts the afflicted, reassures the frightened, and points the way to those who may be lost.
Virtue moves us toward each other. It makes us care in a culture where one person’s mis-step or misfortune is treated as nobody else’s concern. Virtue opens our eyes where it is more convenient to be blind. When we care, we align our lives with the cause of Justice. When we align our lives with the cause of Justice, we find ourselves in solidarity with the purpose of working to liberate our fellowmen from all circumstances that are dehumanizing. These circumstances range from personal habits of drug and sexual addiction to  the corporate cultivation of inhumane working conditions.
Virtue calls us to call each other to personal and corporate accountability. It makes us constructively critical of our national perspectives and priorities. Virtue rejects our individual and corporate tendencies toward inhumane practices. It condemns torture and police criminality. It challenges us to let our light shine as a guide to others. Virtue reminds us that the Justice we demand of others, institutional and national, must also be evident in our own behavior as citizens, as parents, as co-workers, and as neighbors.
Virtue reminds us that an authentic love is not a function of our simple-minded heroism. It is not enough to give the unfortunate a turkey so that we can then feel good about ourselves. A “hand-out” is okay. We are reminded of our human duty to feed the hungry. However, a hand up is always better. The empowerment of persons is the real mission to which we are called. We must remain mindful of the reality that we cannot do for others what they should, and must do for themselves in the course of their humanity.
An authentic love, a virtuous love, is the real work that we must each do to save ourselves from the despair bred by dysfunctional living. What we can all do for each other is to lovingly, but firmly, point the way to self-redemption. No person can save another person’s soul. The cultivation of self-control is absolutely necessary in each life. Virtuous self-control is liberating. It leads to a state of good health. Moral health. Physical health. Cultural health. Spiritual health. That is what salvation is! Anything less is religious vanity. Nothing more.
The New Year comes... Again. We appropriately want to refocus our lives through resolutions designed to make us better.  We want to become more healthy. We want to become more prosperous. We desire to shed the vanity that eventually leads to our destruction. Ultimately it is our commitment to more virtuous living that will allow us to realize the most noble of our aspirations. We are reminded by Ralph Waldo Emerson that the essence of the greatness to which we aspire is the knowledge... the perception that virtue is enough. 

Happy New Year!!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Ask Yourself...

Ask yourself “What do you want?”; and “What are you willing to give in return for the prize of your obsession…?”
Do not answer in haste…
What are your limits… the measure of your strivings…
How powerful is the force of your drive…
Can you separate your passions from your goals…
Can you prevent their submersion in the shallow pond of someone else’s desire?
Can you direct your days so that your dreams will be realized…
Can you defer your want of immediate gratification to the end of your ultimate fulfillment…?
And about the ghost of doubt…
Can you repair the breach of fear…
Are you able to revive yourself when discouragement attempts to suffocate you… to quench your desire…?
Can you muster the resolve to come again when you feel that you have spent your last shell…?
Can you maintain the definition of yourself when the praise or ruinous witicism of other voices attempt to redefine you in terms of their convenience…
Can you maintain your focus in the light of the redirecting glare of public advisement…?
And finally…
Can you be honest… brutally so if necessary… first with yourself… and then with all else about everything…?
Can you forgive yourself your immediate failings… and act with the force of your forwardness…
Can you join in the laughter when dissenting voices pour scorn and ridicule on the blaze of your primordial fire…?
Can you learn to love yourself like this…
And if you can… Will you…
And if you will… Then won’t you…

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Season Of Giving

"He has freely scattered His gifts to the poor, His righteousness endures forever;…” 
Psalm 112:9 (NIV)
Take a deep breath and relax now …
As we emerge from what is usually a very hectic time of the year, let us take a moment to reflect and look forward to how we can continue our lives and relationships in meaningful ways in the days ahead. The stresses of finding the right gift for someone, the joy of receiving a longed-for wish, the head-shaking blandness of getting something as redundant as a tie, or another pair of socks, or sweater that we do not need or want, the empty feeling of just picking something for the sake of picking something to give, can leave us exhausted to say the least.
Let us leave behind the craziness of crowded malls filled with last minute shoppers. Every year we swear that we are not going to go crazy ‘doing this thing’ again. And every year, to some degree, we all do. I have told my friends, my children, my co-workers, that instead of buying me stuff that I am sure I don’t need; they should instead  find someone who is in need, and give them something for me. For the most part they do not listen, and I understand. I do.
This has been, and maybe still is, a season of complex emotions. There is a genuine need to reach out and touch someone. There is a need to be touched ourselves.  We want to share the love that in many cases has gone untold, or is dormant in our chests and in our stomachs, or that has sort of become sub-conscious. Our love goes underground in our lives, waiting for a time and place to be expressed. Unfortunately that time is usually when one of us is about to have our physical remains placed beneath the ground. At funerals that is! This then, is a season when we become aware of the many significant others around us, and of the impact that our presence makes in each other’s lives.
It is also a time when some become acutely aware of their loneliness. In the midst of all our merry making, the increase in the number of suicides this time of year is a critical reminder to us of how absent we are in the world of someone who really needs us.  In the very midst of great abundance, there is a desperate poverty that afflicts many. The Good News is that in fact we, none of us, need to feel abandoned to the destiny of hopelessness that is implied in our desperate poverty. Hope for our world comes in the form of the God in us who is Love. It is this God that became incarnate in the life of Christ that we should be celebrating all year long.
“He has scattered His gifts to the poor …”
The God of infinite resources comes to us in all our circumstances of need. Our needs vary. Some of us need some things. Some of us need something more. The God who is Love calls us to shelter the homeless, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, comfort the widow and the fatherless, speak the Word of salvation to those in prison, liberate the oppressed and the oppressor… The gifts of God are tailored to our individual needs.  He gives his gifts indiscriminately to us in accordance with the circumstances of our poverty. Yes, God scatters his gifts to the poor! That means all of us!
"His righteousness endures forever"
So we make a big deal of our efforts in what has essentially become an orgy of commercialism. Then the season passes. The caroling goes away. And we return to the ‘being absent’ in each other’s lives that really is our standard. Ok, so I am being a bit hard. I am a hard guy, but you get my drift. In the end it is not the things that we purchase with money that matter most, but our continued loving/caring presence in each other’s lives. It is how we continue to… be with/walk with…, one another down the roads of life. It is the crucial matter of how we continue to do right by each other when no bells are ringing.
Let us remember that the greatest gift we can give in the Season of Giving is the gift of a Love that endures.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Overheated Rhetoric and Existential Disasters

IF I were a careless candle
Waxing eloquent from the flame of my own burning
I would set free by my heated tongue
The liquefied rantings of my softened core
And for a fleeting moment touch with my vanishing heat
The exposed senses of those who seek my glow…
And just as my warmth were known I would go cold
Returning to my hardened state…
If I was a careless candle
I would promise you light and warmth and then go out and leave you
Cold…and dark…and hard”
( "Lukewarm Thoughts" ...From my book... “Of Scattered Seed and Broken Souls.” )
The right to freely express ourselves has been enshrined in the highest Code of our society. It is one of the things that we claim with an almost religious zeal. Unfortunately we are not always very conscientious about the impact of our expressions on each other, and if we are, then we do not seem to care.
The claiming of this right has an implicit assumption that as a society we are civilized enough to bear the burdens: intellectual, political, cultural, spiritual, social, and  legal; that the wanton expressions of our “freedom of speech” sometimes create. This is a careless assumption. Time and again, events have shown this assumption to be problematic to say the least. Ideologues, whether they be politicians, ex-politicians, media commentators, or religious figures; continue to be overwhelmed by the intrinsic ramifications of the frivolous exercise of this “right”. Even as we speak we are witnesses to the negative banter of opposing voices as they seek to address the many issues that haunt our society; from torture, to crime and violence, to community policing. We are duly concerned about  quality of the analysis proceeding from the minds and mouths of many of the persons who present themselves as leaders on the various stages in our culture.  
For better or worse, our words create realities that we must then deal with in the various circumstances of our lives. As the agents of our thoughts words express the deepest longings of our souls. Our words, at their best, create peace. At their worst, they result in tragic conflicts. Our words can create feelings of compassion, or they can engender emotions that negate our efforts at well needed reconciliation. Our expressions can build the bridges that bring us together, or they can cause the kind of alienation that makes neighborliness almost impossible. Our words can heal, or they can cause wounds from which we never recover.
While we cherish the right to freely express ourselves, let us never forget the sacred responsibility that we have to make this world better. Let us help with the healing; not exacerbate the hurt. Our words create our world… for better or for worse

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Vietnam... China... Why Not Cuba?

As the crow flies, it is 90 miles from the southernmost tip of the United States to Cuba. With a little help people swim that far. From the lips of self-serving politicians that distance becomes the equivalent of Earth's distance from its furthest star. The distance between us and our Spanish speaking neighbor to the near South has grown as a result of a myriad of political and economic dysfunctions that have lasted for more than two generations starting in 1961. These dysfunctions have become almost unfathomable especially in light of our current relationship with countries like  Communist China and Vietnam. We restored trade with the latter over twenty years ago when Bill Clinton was President. Communist China is not just a trading partner, but the largest holder of US debt.

How do we rationalize the maintainance of the current state of affairs with Cuba in the light of our dalliances with the largest Communist nation on Earth, and Vietnam with whom we fought a war that cost around two million Vietnamese lives and close to sixty thousand American lives? Don't ask the political whores who "serve" in our Congress. Like typical prostitutes, their semantic flourishes are tailored to bring them the benefits of the illicit "congress" that defines their existence. Despite the hardships that the Cuban people have to withstand as a result of a senseless embargo, they continue to shamelessly display their tired political wares in the face of History's rebuke. Subsequent to President Obama's announcement of steps to end the embargo today, Senator Marco Rubio mustered up the following propagandist jewel:

This entire policy shift announced today is based on an illusion, based on a lie,” Rubio, who is the son of Cuban immigrants, told reporters on Capitol Hill. "The White House has conceded everything and gained little."

Is this guy serious? For whom does he speak, except for his political benefactors who have a vested interest in perpetuating the current dysfunction? He certainly does not speak for the Cuban people, most of whom do not look like the typical Miami Cuban or for that matter his alter ego and Senate colleague Ted Cruz. This embargo must end. People of conscience, from the Pope to the leadership of the Caribbean community of nations, have said so in no uncertain terms. The CARICOM Secretariat issued the following statement recently:
"Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Honourable Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda called on the United States President and Congress to end its “senseless embargo of Cuba now.” 

Prime Minister Browne was speaking at the opening ceremony of the Fifth CARICOM Cuba Summit in Havana, Cuba on Monday.  He said that CARICOM’s solidarity with Cuba was manifested by the Region’s repeated calls “in every council in every part of the world” for an end to the embargo."

In announcing the coming change in US policy President Obama said this:

“Neither the American nor Cuban people are well served by a rigid policy that’s rooted in events that took place before most of us were born. These 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked. It’s time for a new approach.”

A majority of Americans agree. I have been to Cuba. It is a beautiful country with people whose human aspirations are no different from ours. We must join with the Pope and Cuba's neighbors in the Caribbean and Latin America in calling for the end of a policy that traps our brothers and sisters of this nation in an unnecessary poverty. End the unjust embargo now. As for Senator Rubio... Well suffice it to say : "In the abundance of water, the fool is thirsty." Let Cuba get her share of the abundance all around. "Oh island in the sun..."

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Against Torture... Reckoning With The Burning Bush In Our Midst

In the brave new world where hashtags reign a little less than supreme, the #TortureReport has become a source of contention about what kind of society we are. People of conscience cannot ignore the kind of uncivilized brutality that has been a prominent feature of our national machismo for generations. Truth be told... this machismo, which has been celebrated from the entertainment perches of Hollywood to the political podiums of the Capitol, has become the Achilles Heel of our democracy.  We cannot pretend that we are unaware of the activities of our CIA with regard to the legacy of morally repugnant actions that agency has pursued in the name of the American people over many decades. It is mind-boggling to listen to the rationalizations of the criminality of torture in terms of its "effectiveness". The moral illiteracy of those who indulge in these rhetorical orgies is appalling. The complicity of the Press, while not surprising, is nonetheless disturbing. Many still hold on to the idea that they are a vital organ of our democracy.  They still claim that mantle, but we have good reason to doubt.

The ever resilient Nelson Mandela, patriarch of a new and revolutionary consciousness, articulates a vision of our humanity that we must all necessarily embrace in our efforts at building sustainable democracies in a more viable world. Our communities, he insists, must be built by people who realize that to guarantee our own freedom we must respect and do everything we can to enhance the freedom of others. He speaks to us as a man who endured nearly three decades of State persecution in his own country, South Africa, under an Apartheid regime. A society that predicates it's security on the continued oppression of people will never be truly viable. Indeed it is actively sowing the seeds of its own demise. There is a great body of evidence pointing to the fact that our rogue-ish behavior as a nation functions to create the very insecurity we claim to want to deter. We reap what we sow.

At the very core of our idealism as a nation is a philosophical insistence that "all persons are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". This is the central idea informing the exceptionalism we claim as a nation. Those who insist on the validity of the fundamental ideals informing our nation's origins, it's growth and  it's development, must never forget that our Faith has its genesis in a moral and ethical relationship with the God of Moses. That would be HIS/HER voice calling out to us from the “burning bush” of Justice. It is a voice that demands that we reign in our scandalous propensity to the kind of obscene bloodlust that issues in torture and murder. The Righteous Source from which that voice emanates speaks to the reality that we are inextricably connected in our "being", and are therefore essentially affected by all the circumstances that touch each of our lives.

The voice of our supreme moral and ethical Source declares in no uncertain terms that, as a nation,  we must take off the boots of moral ignorance which weigh us down in the muck of injustice. Those boots keep us from advancing overdue liberty-promoting actions toward the persons we have withering away as captives of an unjust process. They are being held in Guantanamo and our other prisons, known and unknown. These captives yearn for deliverance from the liberty-suppressing, life-thwarting circumstances prevalent around them. Their angst becomes the stuff our insecurity... Their pent up rage the impetus of coming explosions.  Our unjust war in Iraq gave birth to what we are now regarding as a terror born out of the Arabian sand. According to a National Geographic article, half a million Iraqis were killed in the war between 2003-2011. Can we discount the tragic consequences of this unjust war? Can we avoid it's tragic consequences? Arab lives matter. They matter just as much as American lives.

The undeniable dynamism of that voice coming from the "bush" of our fate, holds our feet to the fires of Justice. Cover our ears as we might, that same voice echoes disturbingly from the distant “wilderness” of our beginnings as a nation. A nation founded on the ideals of Liberty, Equality, and Justice for all. We have a history still stained by the disgrace of Slavery. A reminder that by "all men" we did not mean all men. Today in America we still have to be reminded that Black lives matter. They matter just as much as White lives... Or Brown lives... Or Red lives... Or Yellow lives. Those who would articulate the dynamic instructions of our moral core are required to have an exegetical moment that is ontologically meaningful. This is not a time to resort to the kind of meaningless obfuscation that calls a crime "a mistake". Repeating platitudes that comfort those who choose various convenient states of inaction while ignoring the need for corrective action, will only cement us in a place of cultural and spiritual decadence. Our claim to moral and political exceptionalism is about to go up in smoke. It is time to return to the faith expressed in our foundational rationale for being America... Land of the Free, Home of the Brave.

Beyond the parochialism of our claim to some special existential privilege, ours is a Faith resonating in the powerful vibrations of the internationally acclaimed Robert Nesta Marley:
"Jah come to break downpression,
Rule equality,
Wipe away transgression,
Set the captives free... Set the captive free!... Set the captive free!"  (From the song “Exodus”...)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

International Justice- Impartial, Impotent or Indifferent?

"The issue of whether the actions of Israel or Hamas and other associated groups constitute war crimes under international law has dominated the media since the summer. For Israel to suggest that their actions are permitted under international law yet the actions of Palestinian groups constitute war crimes defies logic."
Read more at the link below:

Monday, December 8, 2014

Hague-based #ICC upgrades #Palestine

Hague-based #ICC upgrades #Palestine

Bringing Good News To The Afflicted And The Incarcerated

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
Because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives
And freedom to prisoners;
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
To grant those who mourn in Zion,
Giving them a garland instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.
So they will be called oaks of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1-3)
When Yeshua (Jesus) adapted this passage to the goals of his own ministry in Nazareth, the place where he grew up, those representing the status quo were so enraged with him that they attempted to “throw him off a cliff”. It didn't matter that they were “in the synagogue on the sabbath day”. Let us be crystal clear...there must be no collusion between those who stand for Righteousness/Justice and those who facilitate the oppression of the poor. Persons unjustly held and treated like chattel in an industry that predicates it's future success on their dehumanization need us not just to speak up, but to act to bring about the change necessary to set them free.
Yes... Salvation is a powerful action word, not a salve in the plantation’s religious balm yard. The hunger for a salve by which people try to cope with the stressors around them is all too real. It has fed the specter of addiction that plagues so many lives all around us. The results of this "hunger" and those who feed it are manifest in our prison population.
Toward the purposes of bringing good news to "the afflicted", it would serve us well to work toward the decriminalization of drug addiction. We can begin this process by decriminalizing drugs, just as we did alcohol, and instituting rehabilitation programs at the community level that are geared toward the needs of those who can't afford the high priced services geared to rich addicts...who do not usually  end up in jail.  
Our so-called "war on drugs" is for every intent and purpose an out and out assault on poor addicts who need our help. It is in fact a "war" that enriches dealers and police departments and the builders of jails. This is one of the dirty little secrets of this whole "business"... And a nasty , stinking one at that. How many law enforcement officers and departments want to see this war end when in fact it is a cash cow for them? How much of the drugs on the street corners of our inner cities actually come from the evidence rooms of local precincts? How many of the murders paraded before us on the Sunday morning news are committed by police who set out to victimize local "drug dealers"?
We can begin the empowerment of the "broke" and the "broken hearted" by building training facilities that are geared toward equipping the economically depressed with marketable skills. Nationwide, three-quarters of our prison population are high school dropouts. Education, not incarceration, should be our focus. More modern schools...not more modern jails, should be our priority. Let us explore the possibilities of giving "garlands" not "ashes" to those who are disadvantaged among us. Can we make them partners in the building up of Zion, and thus cultivate "mantles of praise instead of a spirit of fainting"? I believe we can. I believe we must try.
The time is now when we must insist that our government provide the resources for the rehabilitation of the redeemable among those who break the law, rather than hand them over to be exploited by those who see them only as a means to make lots of money. The belief that warehousing these souls for profit somehow makes our communities better turns the truth on its head. How can we work to bring out the worst in the disadvantaged among us, and expect that this will not come back to haunt us? Bringing out the worst in them is what our prisons do...more often than not.
Our top law enforcement officer Attorney General Eric Holder, acknowledges both the failure of our
prison system as it is and the fact that drug addiction is in fact a public health crisis in this country. It is a travesty of Justice that we continue to address a public health crisis by imprisoning its victims. It
is time to wake up from the nightmare of our delusions and collective insecurities. Good news to the captive is sometimes bad news for the captor/investor/immoral politician. So be it. We can no longer bury our heads in the sand and remain complicit in the dehumanization of our brethren. When we look at our 401k statements in the future, let us ask whether or not we are participating in the oppression of our neighbors and their children by investing in the prison industrial complex.
The time has come to put resources behind our proclamations! How many of our municipalities have invested in this degradation of souls through their pension funds? Should we continue to support a political process and politicians opting to take the easy way out by “farming out” the incarceration of those who break the law? Ultimately it is centers of production that will fuel the security and prosperity of our communities, not detention centers. Again, let us invest in the future of our communities through the empowering vehicle of a good education. Let us build up our schools, not build more prisons. The viability of our communities is a direct function of the viability of our collective humanity, not some crass notion of brute force exercised by those who pretend they wanna be "tough on crime". Enough of the lazy-think of an opportunistic and lewdly gratuitous culture.

Clear Now

Excerpt from the book 'In My Element' by Roy Alexander Graham

We feel so much
That we cannot touch…
We say so little
With so many words…
And then it happens…
And then it is clear…
Sensations cease…superfluous
Words too…
All inadequate in expressing
That one thing we try to do
With words and bumbling acts…
And we discover
That to love
Is to allow Love
To have its way with us…
Not us to have our way
With each other…

'In My Element' available on Amazon Kindle

'In My Element' available on Apple iBooks

'In My Element' available on Barnes & Noble Nook

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Prison Industrial Complex And The Perpetuation Of Slavery

Since the 1970s the prison population in the USA has grown by leaps and bounds. According to the International Centre for Prison Studies:
“No country incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than the United States at 716 per 100,000 people”.
This fact stands out in light of our claim to being the "beacon of Freedom”. It is necessary that we ask why... Why do we lock away our people at such an outrageous rate? Unsurprisingly the answer to this question may lie at the very heart of our socio-economic ideal. At the very core of this issue is a version of capitalism ...expressed as unbridled, rapacious greed.
Vicky Pelaez writes the following in an article titled “The Prison Industry in the United States: Big Business or a New Form of Slavery?” :
“There are approximately 2 million inmates in state, federal and private prisons throughout the country. According to California Prison Focus, “no other society in human history has imprisoned so many of its own citizens.” The figures show that the United States has locked up more people than any other country: a half million more than China, which has a population five times greater than the U.S. Statistics reveal that the United States holds 25% of the world’s prison population, but only 5% of the world’s people. From less than 300,000 inmates in 1972, the jail population grew to 2 million by the year 2000. In 1990 it was one million. Ten years ago there were only five private prisons in the country, with a population of 2,000 inmates; now, there are 100, with 62,000 inmates. It is expected that by the coming decade, the number will hit 360,000, according to reports."
Addressing the same issue, Andy Kroll writes the following in an article titled “This Is How Private Prison Companies Make Millions Even When Crime Rates Fall” published in Mother Jones magazine, Sept 2013:
“We are living in boom times for the private prison industry. The Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation's largest owner of private prisons, has seen its revenue climb by more than 500 percent in the last two decades. And CCA wants to get much, much bigger: Last year, the company made an offer to 48 governors to buy and operate their state-funded prisons. But what made CCA's pitch to those governors so audacious and shocking was that it included a so-called occupancy requirement, a clause demanding the state keep those newly privatized prisons at least 90 percent full at all times, regardless of whether crime was rising or falling.
Occupancy requirements, as it turns out, are common practice within the private prison industry. A new report by In the Public Interest, an anti-privatization group, reviewed 62 contracts for private prisons operating around the country at the local and state level. In the Public Interest found that 41 of those contracts included occupancy requirements mandating that local or state government keep those facilities between 80 and 100 percent full. In other words, whether crime is rising or falling, the state must keep those beds full.”

Stop for a moment and let that sink in... The prison industrial complex wants the jails full even if crimes numbers are in decline. What are the implications of this demand for the way our justice system operates? It is time for a critical examination of the process of what is blatantly an “injustice system”. Can a society that ignores this fact escape its consequences? When our aspiring candidates for political office talk about being “hard on crime”, let us loudly interrupt them and ask them how much money they are getting from this prison industrial complex. Are they and the judges we elect the compliant cronies of the system of injustice which now exists to target the poor and underprivileged in our communities...especially our communities of color? Paul Waldman writing in The American Prospect observes the following:
"... you can't talk about prisons without talking about race. African Americans in particular are over-represented in prisons; though they are 13 percent of the population, they made up 38 percent of the population of state prisons.... The crimes that landed them there, however, are not too different from their white and Hispanic counterparts. Eighteen percent of blacks in state prisons were convicted of drug crimes, compared to 15 percent of whites and 17 percent of Hispanics."
In addition to the disproportionate number of persons of color in our jails, it is also a fact that the US imprisons more women than any other country. This raises other disturbing questions about the political culture being perpetuated here. Think for a moment about the history of the disenfranchisement of women and minorities in this country's politics. In a democracy such as ours one may ask... in fact must ask... who benefits from the disenfranchisement of this part of the potential electorate which is disproportionately affected by our present policies on incarceration? Is the excessive incarceration of women and people of color a way of thwarting the process of democratization? Does it tilt the balance of electoral power in favor of the same influences that historically wanted exactly that state of affairs? These are questions worthy of further examination. Is this in fact jerrimandering via incarceration?
Let us be very clear about what is at stake here. There are inescapable consequences of this kind of injustice. The institutions in our communities must begin to take this issue to heart. We must do more than is being done to conscientize our fellow citizens about this problem.The proliferation of “prison ministries” focusing on saving the proverbial “soul” is unlikely to “change the hearts” of the captives in this new system of slavery. The prisoners are more aware than the preachers that the dichotomy assumed between their physical and spiritual needs is a false one. The “ship” called “Jesus” is not being employed to carry these people away from the degradation and misery and disenfranchisement created by a system of greed and it's corrupted agents. The true “gospel of salvation” that is appropriate in this circumstance is predicated in the powerful, sometimes controversial message of the Prophet Isaiah:
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
Because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives
And freedom to prisoners;
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
To grant those who mourn in Zion,
Giving them a garland instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.
So they will be called oaks of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1-3)
When Yeshua (Jesus) adapted this passage to the goals of his own ministry in Nazareth, the place where he grew up, those representing the status quo were so enraged with him that they attempted to “throw him off a cliff”. It didn't matter that they were “in the synagogue on the sabbath day”. Let us be crystal clear...there must be no collusion between those who stand for Righteousness/Justice and those who facilitate the oppression of the poor. Persons unjustly held and treated like chattel in an industry that predicates it's future success on their dehumanization need us not just to speak up, but to act to bring about the change necessary to set them free.

KKK Membership Sinks Two Florida Cops

Echoing the once-segregated South, a Florida deputy police chief has resigned and an officer has been fired after the FBI reported that both belonged to the Ku Klux Klan
Fruitland Park Deputy Chief David Borst has denied involvement with the notorious white-hooded hate group that emerged after the Civil War and continued to terrorize and murder blacks through the mid-20th century.
The 49-year-old Borst, a department veteran of more than 20 years, was also fire chief for the Lake County city of 5,000, about 40 miles northwest of Orlando. He resigned both posts Thursday after being confronted with the FBI report.
Officer George Hunnewell, who was demoted last year over performance and attitude complaints, was fired Friday by Chief Terry Isaacs.
The state attorney's office is reviewing every arrest made by the officers and giving particular scrutiny to cases involving minorities, Isaacs said.
It the second time in five years that Klansmen have been found in the Fruitland Park Police Department. In 2009, Officer James Elkins resigned after photographs showed him in a white robe and pointy hood, and he later admitted he was a leader of the local KKK.
In the current cases, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement gave Isaacs a summary of an FBI investigation based on information from a confidential source who linked both officers to the Klan. No criminal wrongdoing was found, and the FBI said no other officers were linked to the white supremacists.
Chief Deputy State Attorney Ric Ridgway, whom Isaac contacted for advice, told the Orlando Sentinel that the report contained "a lot of fairly substantial evidence that tends to support" Borst's and Hunnewell's Klan membership.
But he pointed out that it's not illegal to belong to the KKK "even if you are the deputy chief."
"It's not a crime to hate people. It may be despicable, it may be immoral, but it's not a crime," he said.
Because of that, Fruitland Park officials had to decide whether Borst and Hunnewell had violated city standards and ethics.
"We cannot nor will we tolerate any philosophy that is inherently morally corrupt or one that espouses bigotry or any intolerance aimed at any groups or individuals because of their race, religion, ethnicity or gender or sexual orientation," said City Manager Gary La Venia.
Isaacs initially told the Orlando Sentinel on Friday that Borst was resigning for "personal family issues," and he would not address the Klan allegations.
"We are here, we are in place, and I want the public to know this type of conduct will not even be remotely tolerated," Isaacs told News 13.

Killer Cops

Killer Cops  Click on this link to read the full article

Center for Constitutional Rights executive director Vincent Warren issued the following statement. Following Pantaleo's acquittal. Asking:

"How can anyone in the community have faith in the system now? First Ferguson, now Staten Island. The Grand Jury's failure to indict sends the clear message that Black lives don’t matter. But they do. It's bad enough that broken windows policing over something as harmless as selling untaxed cigarettes led to this tragic killing; it's even worse when the officer responsible - who was caught on tape using a prohibited choke hold, no less - is not held accountable."

"The problem isn't one officer, though: it's systemic. We need real reform of discredited broken windows policing and of the NYPD more than ever. With the court-ordered joint reform process in our class action stop-and-frisk case Floyd v. City of New York finally getting underway, we have that opportunity."

Two Sierra Leone #Ebola doctors die in one day

Two Sierra Leone #Ebola doctors die in one day

Friday, December 5, 2014

Let Us Call Evil By Its Name

History serves as a reliable witness to tragedies which put to rest any philosophical or rhetorical back and forth about whether there is in fact good and evil in our world. The impressions left by the presence of these essentially opposite forces throughout the course of our experience are indelibly impressed on our consciousness and on battlefields all over the globe. The substance of those impressions is an unmistakably gruesome mix of the blood, sweat, tears and brutalized flesh of warring factions.

The spilled guts, broken bones, and the haunting screams of mutilated souls deny us any retreat into some specious academic comfort zone regarding this matter. The massacre of innocents will not allow it. The body bags from battlefields near and far containing the remains of our mothers and fathers, our sons and daughters, our neighbors and their children, rankles our convenient stoicism. Those who would resort to their rhetorical acumen to deny the existence of these opposing forces are rudely aroused, and kept awake by the cacophony of war and its foul stench.

The heroes we celebrate in our individual and corporate lives are those who stood in firm opposition to the forces of evil. Those who have represented the expression of evil must bear the eternal rebuke reserved for them. There are those among us who even now would salute Hitler; but they are in reality a fringe trying to survive against the moral tide of History. There are those who would resurrect the fascism of Mussolini; but they inevitably find themselves marginalized and eventually swept aside by the thrust toward a more equal society and a better world. The putrid stench of slavery lingers in the air we breathe. The Ku Klux Klan still has its disciples, but they appropriately still hide their faces... In shame?

The forward march of History gains impetus when we identify and call Evil by its name… That which seeks to destroy the will to achieve the common good. The establishment of the common good is the goal of our civilization. It is a foundation of the kind of Peace which issues from the triumph of the forces of good over the presence of evil. We understand civil society to be a function of the recognition of each other’s right to the pursuit of our highest human potential regardless of circumstances of race, gender, sexuality, religious persuasion, or the socio-economic circumstances of one’s birth.

When we appropriate to each other as a human right the ability to thrive in ways that are non-obstructive to the strivings of our fellow persons, we regard that as a good thing. To live at peace with each other by the establishment of equity among us is good. We know beyond equivocation that there have been, and that there remain among us persons and influences that do not share the values implicit in these notions. They foster in their own lives, and seek to foist upon others, the inequity that serves their twisted sense of being. They create misery. They are agents of chaos. We call such persons and their intentions and influences... evil.

How China Is Treating Migrants

The following is an article from (December 5, 2014)

Residence permit reform to give migrants equal rights

China unveiled a plan to reform the country's residence permit system on Thursday that would grant migrants equal access to more public services. Residence permit holders would be able to get benefits such as medical services and education for their children like urban dwellers, according to the plan released by the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council. Public opinion on the reforms is being solicited before the formal plan is released.

Migrant workers who stay in a city for half a year with a stable job and residence may apply for the residence permits. China plans to phase out its hukou, or household registration system, and help about 100 million people settle in towns and cities by 2020. Currently, citizens without urban hukou do not enjoy equal access to public services in cities.

The reform to allow migrants in China to enjoy basic welfare and services is "a big leap forward" as it could help eliminate regional discrimination and improve the free movement of labor, said Liu Hongbin, a professor with People's Public Security University of China, the Beijing News reported.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

A Brief History of Slavery and the Origins of American Policing

An article by Victor E. Kappeler PhD
(Victor E. Kappeler is Foundation Professor and Associate Dean of the School of Justice Studies in the College of Justice and Safety at Eastern Kentucky University.)

The birth and development of the American police can be traced to a multitude of historical, legal and political-economic conditions. The institution of slavery and the control of minorities, however, were two of the more formidable historic features of American society shaping early policing. Slave patrols and Night Watches, which later became modern police departments, were both designed to control the behaviors of minorities. For example, New England settlers appointed Indian Constables to police Native Americans (National Constable Association, 1995), the St. Louis police were founded to protect residents from Native Americans in that frontier city, and many southern police departments began as slave patrols. In 1704, the colony of Carolina developed the nation's first slave patrol. Slave patrols helped to maintain the economic order and to assist the wealthy landowners in recovering and punishing slaves who essentially were considered property.

Policing was not the only social institution enmeshed in slavery. Slavery was fully institutionalized in the American economic and legal order with laws being enacted at both the state and national divisions of government. Virginia, for example, enacted more than 130 slave statutes between 1689 and 1865. Slavery and the abuse of people of color, however, was not merely a southern affair as many have been taught to believe. Connecticut, New York and other colonies enacted laws to criminalize and control slaves. Congress also passed fugitive Slave Laws, laws allowing the detention and return of escaped slaves, in 1793 and 1850. As Turner, Giacopassi and Vandiver (2006:186) remark, “the literature clearly establishes that a legally sanctioned law enforcement system existed in America before the Civil War for the express purpose of controlling the slave population and protecting the interests of slave owners. The similarities between the slave patrols and modern American policing are too salient to dismiss or ignore. Hence, the slave patrol should be considered a forerunner of modern American law enforcement.”

The legacy of slavery and racism did not end after the Civil War. In fact it can be argued that extreme violence against people of color became even worse with the rise of vigilante groups who resisted Reconstruction. Because vigilantes, by definition, have no external restraints, lynch mobs had a justified reputation for hanging minorities first and asking questions later. Because of its tradition of slavery, which rested on the racist rationalization that Blacks were sub-human, America had a long and shameful history of mistreating people of color, long after the end of the Civil War. Perhaps the most infamous American vigilante group, the Ku Klux Klan started in the 1860s, was notorious for assaulting and lynching Black men for transgressions that would not be considered crimes at all, had a White man committed them. Lynching occurred across the entire county not just in the South. Finally, in 1871 Congress passed the Ku Klux Klan Act, which prohibited state actors from violating the Civil Rights of all citizens in part because of law enforcements’ involvement with the infamous group. This legislation, however, did not stem the tide of racial or ethnic abuse that persisted well into the 1960s.

Though having white skin did not prevent discrimination in America, being White undoubtedly made it easier for ethnic minorities to assimilate into the mainstream of America. The additional burden of racism has made that transition much more difficult for those whose skin is black, brown, red, or yellow. In no small part because of the tradition of slavery, Blacks have long been targets of abuse. The use of patrols to capture runaway slaves was one of the precursors of formal police forces, especially in the South. This disastrous legacy persisted as an element of the police role even after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In some cases, police harassment simply meant people of African descent were more likely to be stopped and questioned by the police, while at the other extreme, they have suffered beatings, and even murder, at the hands of White police. Questions still arise today about the disproportionately high numbers of people of African descent killed, beaten, and arrested by police in major urban cities of America.

Dr. Victor Kappeler is a Foundation Professor and Associate Dean of the School of Justice Studies. Dr. Kappeler is a three-time EKU graduate whose textbooks are commonly used by universities worldwide. He is recognized as a leading scholar in policing as well as media and the social construction of crime, among other related fields. Among many other honors, Dr. Kappeler received the 2006 Cabinet for Justice and Public Safety Award for Academic Excellence, the 2005 Outstanding Criminal Justice Alumnus Award from Sam Houston State University, where he earned his doctoral degree, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society of Criminology’s Division on Critical Criminology for “sustained and distinguished scholarship, teaching, and/or service in the field of critical criminology.”.

A Man Like Me

A man like me…the black man you see
Standing here in front of you…
In your eyes…but out of view
Always knew…
What its like to be
A man…a black man like me

Can you tell me…
The black man you see
Standing here in front of you
Face to face…but out of view
Something new…about what it’s like
To be a man…a black man like me

Now look at me…stare deep into the mirror of my soul
And see yourself…
In my pain
In my degradation
In my crucifixion
In my resurrection…
Know me as I am
And receive salvation…
From a black man
Like me

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Spain Has An Empty Prison Problem

While we have a thriving prison industrial complex...

Following Through After Ferguson... A Letter From Attorney General Eric Holder

Following Michael Brown's tragic death, millions of people across the nation and around the world have focused their attention on unfolding events in Ferguson, both grieving together and making their voices heard.
In recent days, many have been captivated by ongoing developments, anguished emotions, peaceful protests -- and, too often, deeply unfortunate images of unnecessary destruction. And this tragic incident has sparked a necessary, national conversation about the need to ensure trust and build strong relationships between law enforcement officials and the communities they serve.
Events in Ferguson have revealed a deep distrust between a community and its police force. But this reality is not limited to one location. Other communities around this country know this struggle all too well. And it's abundantly clear that every single one of us has a role to play in tackling this problem together, as a nation -- to identify those things that bind us, and to be honest with one another about the things that continue to divide us.
In August, President Obama ordered a review of federal funding and programs that provide equipment to state and local law enforcement agencies. Yesterday, the Administration released that review's findings -- and announced key next steps to strengthen the trust in and effectiveness of the policing of our communities.
Learn more about yesterday's announcements, and the findings of the Administration's review.
Here are the next steps we're taking:
  1. Creating a new task force to promote the expansion of 21st century community-oriented policing.
  2. Reforming how the federal government equips local law enforcement, particularly with military-style equipment.
  3. Advancing the use of body-worn cameras and promoting proven community policing initiatives.
I know this has been a difficult time for people in Ferguson, and for many others across the country. It will take time for things to get better. But as I assured Ferguson residents during my visit there, in August, the Obama administration is firmly committed to making the progress we need -- and that all of our citizens deserve.
The changes that the President announced yesterday are exactly the sorts of programmatic steps that will bring the right people together to engage in a constructive, national conversation -- so we can build trust, address persistent concerns, and protect public safety while respecting the rights of every American.
Last Tuesday, addressing the public, the President said, "[to] those who are prepared to work constructively, your President will work with you." I am committed to answering the President's call to see this through -- as are the men and women of the United States Department of Justice.
Learn more about yesterday's announcements here -- and spread the word to anyone who wants to know how we're moving forward as a nation.
Thank you,
Eric H. Holder, Jr.

Monday, December 1, 2014

America Beyond Ferguson, Missouri

12-year-old Devonte Hart, Sgt. Bret Barnum share hug at Ferguson rally

A picture worth a thousand words. It tells the story of that other America that now retired officer Darren Wilson who shot and killed unarmed teenager Mike Brown is totally ignorant of. It shows police Sgt. Bret Barnum hugging and being hugged by twelve year old Devonte Hart during the Ferguson demonstration in Portland, Oregon on November 25, 2014. The picture was taken by freelance photographer Johnny Nguyen. Look at this moment and let it sink in. I have no more words about it.

Like Lilies In Spring

There is a bulb buried deep inside us all that longs for the end of the season of dormancy. It contains, and is the symbol of all our ...