Court Of Impeachment And War Crimes: Impeach, Bush, Cheney, Happy May Day…The Beginning Of A New Phase!

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Thursday, May 1, 2008

Impeach, Bush, Cheney, Happy May Day…The Beginning Of A New Phase!

Impeach, Bush, Cheney, Happy May Day…The Beginning Of A New Phase!

Happy May Day!

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For centuries May Day was a seasonal festival, and virtually every pre-Christian European culture celebrated May Day as the beginning of summer.

In the United States, there is a pitched struggle for the meaning of May Day. For some, May Day remains a pagan celebration of the seasons. For others, it commemorates the shameful execution of the “Haymarket Martyrs” of 1866.

For others, it is a reminder that on May 1, 2003, George W. Bush declared “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq. Who can forget the absurdity of the combat-dodging chicken hawk boastfully declaring, “Major combat operations in Iraq have ended.” (Of course, thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians have died in Iraq since that particular lie).

I would like to use this opportunity to remind readers what happened in Chicago on May 1,1866.

On that date, several thousand immigrants and workers had gathered to support striking workers who were demanding better wages, fair treatment and safer working conditions. This was a time when American workers routinely worked 12-15 hours per day, and children were used in slave-like conditions in factories and coal mines.

The rally began peacefully that day, and the crowd was so calm that Chicago Mayor Carter Harrison walked home early after observing the event for several hours.

In the middle of the rally, the police ordered the crowd to disperse and began marching in formation towards the speakers' wagon. Someone threw a bomb, killing a police officer. Chaos ensued, with police firing into the crowd.

Although every speaker at the event had urged peaceful protest, eight organizers were charged with murder. The prosecution offered no evidence connecting any of the defendants with the bombing, arguing that the rally organizers were engaged in a “conspiracy.” (A conspiracy to exercise the First Amendment right of free speech, I suppose).

Several of the defendants were hanged, and others received life sentences. Legal scholars often refer to the Haymarket prosecution as one of the most serious miscarriages of justice ever perpetrated in a United States court.

Most historians believe that Pinkerton agents provoked the incident, and several years later Illinois Gov. John Altgeld concluded that all eight defendants were innocent and signed pardons for those who had not already been executed. The governor publicly stated that the real reason for the bombing was the city of Chicago's failure to hold Pinkerton guards responsible for their practice of shooting striking workers.

As if this isn't damning enough, the police commander who ordered the dispersal was later convicted of corruption.

The event fueled the growing worldwide movement for social justice for workers. In 1904, international organized labor called on trade unions of all countries “to demonstrate energetically on May First for the legal establishment of the eight-hour day, for the class demands of workers and for universal peace.”

May Day became an international celebration of the social and economic achievements of the organized labor and the working class.

In 1955, the Catholic Church even made May 1 the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker to underscore the Christian concept of honoring labor.

In that proud tradition, the International Longshore Workers Union (ILWU) has issued a clarion call for a worker's action to stop the war against the people of Iraq.

Their resolution observes that “the overwhelming majority of the American people now oppose this bipartisan and unjustifiable war, but the two major political parties -- Democrats and Republicans -- continue to fund it.”

The ILWU is halting work today all along the West Coast, and every major port will be shut down for eight hours in a tangible display of the strength and power of organized labor.

It is reminiscent of the refusal of longshoremen to load bombs for the military dictatorship in Chile in 1978 and a similar refusal to load military cargo to the Salvadoran military dictatorship in 1981.

And here in Humboldt, there will be a more modest -- but joyous -- celebration at Big Pete's pizza, located at 1504 G St. in Arcata. There will be music by the Radical Devil, Jesse Goplen, and other special guests.

And in the spirit of May Day, Big Pete's will be accepting Humboldt Community Currency for Pizza from 9-11 p.m.

So join me in some music and fun tonight. And let's remember the words of John F. Kennedy: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

David Cobb was the Green Party candidate for president in 2004 and currently works for Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County. He can be reached at or 269-0984. He is also the host of “Thursday Night Talk,” which airs on KHSU radio on 90.5 FM every Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

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Political Wisdom: Math Gives Democrats a Headache

Here’s a summary of the smartest new political analysis on the Web:
by Sara Murray and Gerald F. Seib

The Democratic race has gotten so contentious that the two campaigns can’t agree on who has gathered the most votes, or even how to decide which votes to count. The New Yorker’s Hendrik Hertzberg, who has been arguing for months that the popular vote was be the most significant reading in the Democratic race, now writes that he finds the popular vote measure “problematic.”

To show why, he lays out no fewer than six ways in which the popular vote could be counted right now (national party-authorized primaries only, those primaries plus caucus states, authorized primary states plus votes from the disputed vote in Michigan, plus the disputed vote in Florida, etc.). To illustrate the problem, he notes that the only way Sen. Hillary Clinton could be ahead of Sen. Barack Obama in the popular vote count, as some in her camp claim, is if she counts all the votes she won in Michigan, a primary the national party put on the blacklist, and to give Sen. Obama zero votes because he didn’t put himself on the ballot there. “In other words, the claim that Clinton is ahead in the popular vote depends entirely on taking seriously the notion that Obama has no support in a state that includes the University of Michigan and the city of Detroit—a claim that suggests that it would be appropriate to award an American Presidential nomination on the basis of an election result that looks like it was imported from North Korea.”

The Atlantic’s Clive Crook
takes another look at Obama’s break with Rev. Jeremiah Wright and concludes: “So, he has a killer instinct after all–or at least some limit to his forbearance. Obama’s response yesterday to Jeremiah Wright’s flurry of appearances, and especially to the pastor’s speech at the National Press Club on Monday, was pretty steely.”

While predicting that “Wright isn’t going away,” Crook writes that “plainly, Obama was angry not about what Wright said, but about the fact that he has chosen to keep on saying it–to the obvious detriment of Obama’s faltering campaign. Who wouldn’t be angry under those circumstances? But it is too late for Obama to say that the man’s views are so offensive in themselves that they put him outside the realm of decency. If that is true now, as Obama seemed to be saying yesterday, it was true weeks ago.”

The Washington Post’s David Broder
looks at Wright’s explanation of the historic goals of the black church — liberation, transformation and reconciliation — and how those have played out in Obama. ” Liberation explains the young Obama’s decision to take his first job as a community organizer…Transformation is a fancy way of describing the need for radical change, not just in policies but in the fundamental premises of politics, as Obama has been advocating since the start of his campaign…And reconciliation, as translated by Obama, means not only an appeal to move beyond partisanship in policy debates but explains his friendships with people such as Tom Coburn, the staunchly conservative senator from Oklahoma who is passionately antiabortion and strongly supporting John McCain,” Broder writes. Wright may have helped inspire Obama’s political views at one point, Broder says, but “the damage from their friendship has now been far greater.”

Moving forward in the primary race, it’s not that Obama can’t win white working-class voters — he did it in Wisconsin. The question is whether he can replicate Wisconsin, writes’s Mike Madden. But “the combination of factors that went into Obama’s Wisconsin win may be tough to duplicate, especially with Clinton running a revived campaign that has hardened loyalties on both sides,” Madden says.

In Wisconsin, Clinton was almost broke, on a losing streak and poorly organized. Obama, on the other hand, was well organized and the close proximity to home-state Illinois seemed to work in his favor too. “But those factors alone don’t explain why Obama beat Clinton so handily,” Madden notes. “Clearly, at some basic level, Obama appealed to Wisconsin voters in a way that, according to Clinton’s argument these days, he simply shouldn’t have.” With the economy listed as the No. 1 issue, Obama is going to have to win the white working-class back if he wants to secure the nomination before June.

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A New May Day

Violence marred protests last year, but the LAPD insists that it has learned from its mistakes.

May 1, 2008

On May Day last year, an inspiring day of peaceful protest here in Los Angeles was marred by a confrontation between two disreputable groups -- the thugs who exploited the event to tussle with police, and the police who responded with a melee of confused violence. There's no way to be sure that thugs won't show up again today, but there's every reason to expect that the police will be better prepared.

In a visit to The Times this week, Police Chief William J. Bratton and his top brass -- including Deputy Chief Michael Hillmann, one of the LAPD's most respected veterans -- described a thoughtful plan for monitoring and, if necessary, controlling today's immigration marches. They expressed appropriate regard for the 1st Amendment rights of those who are marching, and admitted that the department's focus on crime-fighting in recent years may have caused it to neglect basic lessons in crowd control. Since the 2007 MacArthur Park fiasco, about 8,700 officers have undergone training, and the chief assures that Spanish-speaking officers and translation devices will prevent a repeat of a particularly humiliating breakdown that day, when dispersal orders were barked in English to immigration protesters, and officers wheeled on those who did not respond as quickly as the officers wanted.

The LAPD is not a perfect organization, and its mishaps have caused this city much pain over the years, but the immigrant community owes the department its due. LAPD leaders, starting with Bratton, have adopted an enlightened approach to immigration matters. They have, for instance, stood firmly behind Special Order 40, which is the latest target of anti-illegal immigration passions. Contrary to those who seek to have it amended, the order sensibly keeps officers from initiating contact with residents based solely on questions about their immigration status, and yet also permits officers to notify federal authorities when they believe someone is in the country illegally. It balances the need to encourage witnesses and others to cooperate with police and the right of the nation to expel illegal immigrants. Bratton's defense of Special Order 40 -- just this week, he vowed not to change "one word" as long as he is chief -- should remind protesters that this city, while not pandering to those here illegally, also recognizes their humanity and their established place in our society.

Today's marches should be a source of pride, not alarm, a reminder that America's most cherished values include those of speech and peaceable assembly -- it's the 1st Amendment for a reason. Restraint on the part of demonstrators will do their cause honor; professionalism by the LAPD will do the same for the city.

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LOS ANGELES — On a warm morning earlier this month, about 600 Los Angeles police officers gathered in the empty parking lot at Dodger Stadium for some high-stakes role playing.

Most pretended to be protesters -- standing in for the ones expected to converge on Downtown Los Angeles on Thursday as part of May Day immigration rallies planned across the country.

As some in the mock crowd threw bottles and acted the part of agitators, officers assigned to undercover "extraction units" quickly and quietly isolated the rabble-rousers and hauled them away.

"Is everyone clear on chain of command?" Michael Hillmann, a deputy chief in the Los Angeles Police Department, asked afterward. "Everyone clear on who is in charge of what?"

Under normal circumstances, such questions -- and the elaborate exercise -- might be considered overkill. But on the heels of last year's disastrous May Day, when police injured marchers and journalists during a botched effort to clear MacArthur Park, LAPD leaders are not in the mood to leave things to chance.

The debacle was a setback in the department's effort to improve its image in the city and shed a reputation for unwarranted aggression.

For Police Chief William J. Bratton, the incident was an embarrassment and one of the most serious tests of his leadership since he became chief in 2002. His decision to quickly and publicly apologize for his officers' handling of the protesters managed to temper widespread outrage somewhat, but it also irked police union leaders, who accused him of jumping to conclusions.

"It was probably the most significant multiple set of crises all occurring at the same time that I had ever faced in my career," he said in a recent interview. "But in responding to them, it was always with the focus of 'OK, how out of this negative can we get something positive?' "

In recent months, the department has been planning for this May Day's event: gathering intelligence, meeting with organizers and training officers in contingency plans and crowd control.

"Last year, it just wasn't organized. It was a disaster," Hillmann said. "It was as if the people involved went into it with the idea that the event would work itself out. Crowds do not manage themselves."

Organizers of Thursday's march, which is expected to attract from 20,000 to 100,000 people, have voiced cautious optimism that this year's event would go smoothly. They have commended Hillmann and other LAPD leaders for their efforts.

"It's up to the LAPD to follow through on their promise, to be there to support the march and make sure all of the march participants have a good experience," said Bethany Leal of the Multi-Ethnic Immigrant Worker Organizing Network, one of the sponsors of the march and rally.

Juan Jose Gutierrez of Latino Movement USA echoed Leal, adding that many immigrants still distrust police because of their heavy-handed actions last year.

"There has been progress, but I don't think the relationship has been totally repaired," he said. "A lot of us are in a wait-and-see mode."

The scrutiny will extend far beyond the city's Latino communities. Federal monitors, who oversee the department's efforts to comply with a set of mandated reforms imposed after a corruption and abuse scandal in the late 1990s, will be on hand to observe.

Members of the department's civilian oversight commission, who have sat in on some of the planning meetings, and legal observers from several community and civil rights groups also will be on the streets.

The training at Dodger Stadium arose directly out of what went wrong last year. Near the end of a largely peaceful day of immigrant rights rallies, a group of 20 to 30 people at MacArthur Park provoked police by throwing sticks and water bottles filled with ice and gravel.

Police failed to effectively cut off the violent pocket from the rest of the crowd and, amid growing confusion, commanders gave an order to disperse the entire gathering. The message to leave was broadcast but only in English and from a speaker on a noisy helicopter.

Chaos ensued as officers in riot gear pushed their way through the park, wielding batons and firing nonlethal bullets. More than 240 protesters and journalists have claimed they were injured, as well as 18 officers. An internal LAPD report cited severe shortcomings in leadership, a lack of supervision and deficiencies in training.

In the demonstration's aftermath, Bratton reassigned two of the commanders who oversaw the melee. An LAPD investigation resulted in allegations of misconduct against 29 officers, but a discipline panel has not yet made any recommendations about punishment.

More than 250 claims were filed against the city. Attorneys from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and private firms are negotiating a possible settlement in the case.

Hillmann was preparing to retire last May, but Bratton asked him to stay on to coordinate the policing of this year's event. Over the last year, all of the roughly 9,400 LAPD officers have had to go through an updated crowd-control training course; more than two dozen standouts throughout the department have been tapped to head "incident management teams" that will take charge of large events in the future.

Since February, however, the soft-spoken, detailed-oriented Hillmann has been focused almost entirely on Thursday, refining and redoing plans.

A draft of his hour-by-hour schedule for the day runs from 6 in the morning to 10 at night and includes plans for more than 60 deployments of various units, briefings and other details.

At a recent meeting, he posed a series of worst-case scenarios -- including a car plowing into a crowd of marchers and a counter-protest by anti-illegal immigration groups -- to supervisors with roles Thursday and pushed them to devise response plans.

Bratton, Hillmann and other LAPD leaders have also included march organizers in the planning and have reached out to civic leaders.

"It was pretty unusual; I was pleasantly surprised. But they were wise to reach out and make it clear that they are interested in seeing that there isn't a repeat of last year," Ramona Ripston, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, said of a meeting Bratton asked her to attend.

This year, immigrant rights activists will march to push for legislation that would include a path to citizenship and urge the presidential candidates to present their reform plans.

They also are emphasizing the economic and political contributions of immigrants and calling for an end to raids and deportations. Marches are planned across the country, including cities in Texas, North Carolina and Florida.

In Los Angeles, protesters will gather at two sites: the corner of Olympic Boulevard and Broadway, and MacArthur Park, and at 2 p.m. will begin marching toward City Hall, converging at 5th Street and Broadway.

Some of the people caught up in last year's melee don't plan to return this year. Guatemalan immigrant Jazmin Marroquin, 32, was listening to music in MacArthur Park with her youngest children -- ages 3 and 4 -- when she heard shots and saw police closing in. She dropped to the ground, covering her children, but she said an officer kicked her in the back and hit her with a baton.

Marroquin said that when she saw the news about the upcoming rally, the dread of last year returned. Her children are still afraid of police and the family avoids the park, she said.

"It's something I will never forget," she said. "Instead of taking care of us, they were the ones who attacked us."

But many will return, said Kristina Campbell, staff attorney at MALDEF. They are shaken and angry about what happened to them, she said, but still want to be heard. Campbell said she expects the tone of this year's march to be much different.

"What happened last year was unfortunate and unlawful, but that doesn't mean that people should be fearful," she said. "It's a new day, and we are going to continue to go forward."

Copyright 2008 The Los Angeles Times

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