The Ferguson Verdict

On August 9th we were arriving back in Santa Fe after a vacation excursion to the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and mesa Verde National Park.  Michael Brown was being shot and killed in Ferguson, Missouri by police officer Darren Wilson.  Riots broke out throughout the St. Louis area as news broke that Brown had his hands up when the cop shot him.  The killing of unarmed Black men by police has become epidemic in America as racism rears its ugly head in opposition to a Black President.

I wasn’t able to watch the television coverage of the riots because the casita where I was staying didn’t have a TV but I did follow it on social media and through the New York Times.  Yesterday a grand jury decided no charges were to be filed against the police officer and more unrest followed.  Confronting violence with violence runs counter to everything Ghandi and martin Luther King Jr. have taught us.  Sometimes tempers flare however and great injustice demands civil disobedience.  That should never include violence though.  Looting, shootings and theft of other’s property won’t win any converts to one’s arguments.

We know we live in an era of The New Jim Crow where mass incarceration fueled by unconstitutional stop and frisk harassment by police is funded by federal government grants.  Growing up in America as a Black man is dangerous to one’s health and well being even in the 21st century.  America hasn’t really come very far in terms of race relations.  The virulent statements and deeds by the KKK regarding Ferguson amidst other threats to the President and other African Americans is ample evidence.

Speaking of evidence the grand jury decision came as no surprise to many.  There simply aren’t any consequences when white cops shoot African American men.  The testimony was taken by a grand jury which worked in secrecy with no cross examination of witnesses.  The lack of transparency makes it all suspicious which will only feed the sense that justice was denied.  If the prosecutor really wanted to pursue justice in this case he should have filed charges against Darren Wilson and let an open and public jury trial determine the evidence and render a verdict.  The Brown family, the people of Ferguson and the Black community nationwide was denied such justice.

Why is it we hardly ever hear of unarmed White men being gunned down by cops?  The militarization of police became a national issue because of Ferguson.  Many community activists and leaders have questioned the wisdom of such tactics following the vast over reaction seen on televisions by millions.  This may be the only good that comes from Ferguson.  Yesterday “verdict” was a shame.

Fellow Americans, I Need Your Help

This is a guest column by Ed Cowan

We Americans are the largest, most-powerful democracy on a fragile planet floating in space with no one in charge, no one in politics or media talking about our most serious problems, and our morning and evening news dominated by the latest shootings, stalemated politics, ebola, and the latest news from G.B’s royal family.

I’m a writer/thinker who has been published in Australia, Europe, and the U.S., and in 2012 as one of 14 candidates, I finished second to Obama in the New Hampshire Democratic Presidential Primary.  I campaigned by passing out 650 copies of my Campaign Speech, asking the recipients to pass it on if they liked what they read, spending $680, mainly gas and copies, and winning 945 votes, an unheard of 1.39 votes per dollar spent.

That tiny slice of Democratic voters exposed to my ideas-650 people-liked what they read because I offer ideas in black and white and proposals that challenge you to come up with something better.  I don’t have the answers; I only have ideas.  Consider this trio:

1. We’re not using media, electronic communication, to it’s full potential.  We begin to do so when we ask every head of state and every national politician in every nation this question, here addressed to President Obama:

2. “Do you agree, Mr. President, that the top five problems of the planet are:

1) the nuclear-tipped arms race, number one because it is the only problem that can destroy us (with ozone coming up quickly on the outside rail) and because by solving it, we can save trillions of dollars,

2) excessive population and population growth,

3) the stagnant, self-cannibalizing, super-wasteful, wholly corporate, global, market economy,

4) disparity between the rich and poor within nations and disparity between nations. and

5) the Environment, the Master of Ceremonies Problem that never leaves us, that we solve only in degree, and if you do not agree Mr. President, what are the top five problems of the planet and where, sir, is your plan to solve them?”  

Obama may delay in answering, but if so, we could quickly find that Congressmen in both houses and other heads of state begin to answer the question, provoking the international debate we desperately need.

3.   The President can also spike the international punch bowl of nonexistence debate with this action.  We wake up one Monday morning soon to find on our TV Obama standing next to a table of 20 nuclear nosecones from American missiles.  He asks the I.A.E.A., the International Atomic Energy Association, to come to verify that they are nukes and to monitor them 24/7 before TV & www cameras until they are dismantled and placed in a repository.  Obama gives the other seven nuclear heads of state 72 hours to match his move with the same conditions and these numbers for each of the nuclear nations: Russia 20, China 6, France 4, Great Britain and Israel 2, and India and Pakistan 1 each.

What next?  I give up; what?  Again, I don’t have the answers; we do!  It’s a mighty big we, folks; the five billion adults who get it done daily-who work, raise a family, vote, and act locally-have the answers.  The professionals, experts, and enlightened politicians will do the heavy lifting, but the rest of us can vote and contribute in our own way.  It begins with you; if you like what you read, visit, maybe make a purchase ($5 minimum), and copy and pass on this sheet.  Thank you, Ed Cowan

Fellow Democrats: Late November 2014

Okay, we lost a mid-term election.  Because the GOP offers nothing for the common man, they are setting themselves up for a crash in 2016 if we Democrats offer a candidate with better ideas in black and white that begin to solve America’s problems.  The Democrats of New Hampshire that I handed my single-sheet Campaign Speech liked it so much that 650 copies got me 945 votes.  The American people want our problems SOLVED.  If you like what you read and want to be part of it, pass this sheet!  HAVE SPEECH; WILL TRAVEL.  EC

                                    Obama Places Twenty Nuclear Weapons on the Table

                                                                           Ed Cowan

President Obama could make a huge positive mark on human history if he appeared at dawn on a bright spring morning at Andrews Air Force Base, standing beside a table with twenty nuclear nose cones from U.S. missiles.  The following words are a suggestion of what he might say:

“Good morning.  As we welcome the sunrise of a new dawn, I would like to announce the dawn of a truly new era.  These are nuclear nosecones taken from twenty armed American missiles.   It is time to begin to eliminate the nuclear arsenals that threaten all higher life on the planet, so I ask the International Atomic Energy Agency, the IAEA, to immediately send inspectors to verify, monitor, and provide constant vigilance 24/7 as we move these nukes to Western repositories.

“Second, I respectfully demand that President Putin match my move by putting twenty strategic Russian nosecones before the cameras and request that the IAEA send inspectors to verify and monitor the Russian weapons.  Hopefully, this will be the first step of a process in which the U.S. and Russia will reduce our nuclear stockpiles to twenty nuclear weapons, ten in each nation, within six years.

“Third, China must match the superpowers with four strategic nosecones before their cameras.  France will place three before the cameras, Great Britain and Israel two, and India and Pakistan one.  All of these warheads in the eight nuclear nations musts be monitored by IAEA inspectors 24/7 and be broadcast on TV and internet channels worldwide until we develop well-regulated arms reduction.

“My fourth point: We know North Korea has a handful of nuclear weapons and that Iran wanted nuclear weapons until their 2014 change in Government.  However, as soon as the eight nuclear nations place warheads before the cameras and begin reductions with parity as the guiding principle, humanity is reducing nuclear weapons.  Then, no non-nuclear nation has a need for or right to nuclear weapons.  North Korea will dismantle their weapons, and Iran will allow entry to IAEA inspectors to monitor their nuclear activity.

“I’m confident this is the right move and the non-nuclear world will applaud loudly.  I say to everyone worldwide, ‘Let us hear from you!  The more you applaud, the more you pressure all nuclear nations to match this move by the U.S.’  Thank you; I’ll now take questions.”

    Consider the reaction internationally to Obama’s bold move, or, if he ponders for days as these ideas are discussed nationally, another nuclear head of state could act first and pressure the others to follow.  The non-nuclear world-with everything to lose and nothing to gain from nukes-will applaud loudly, pressuring the reluctant seven to follow.

By coughing up 20 each, Russia and the U.S. will be reducing only a tiny fraction of each superpower’s arsenals, and the other six nuclear nations will be reducing about 1% of their arsenals.  The numbers themselves only become very important once every nation has to reveal the exact nuclear weapons in its arsenal in later stages of disarmament.

This unprecedented step would become the most important positive develop in the sixty-nine years of the nuclear age, for once humanity starts to reduce nuclear arsenals under the watchful eyes of IAEA inspectors, everything changes for the non-nuclear nations that aspire to come nuclear nations, such as North Korea and possibly Iran.  Every nation no Earth has the right to build nuclear weapons as long as the U.S. and Russia have that right.  That is just basic cannon sense and fairness.

However, as soon as the U.S. and Russia put twenty on the table and are followed by the other nuclear nations, reducing nuclear stockpiles becomes the goal of all nuclear powers because nuclear weapons are dangerous, useless in any reasonable sense, and even suicidal.  To use them is to invite massive retaliation.  A limited nuclear war or serious nuclear terrorism is a threat to the well being of the planet, for all major rivers run into the sea.

Executive Orders 101

President Obama is being vilified by the Right for his use of Executive Orders, especially this week on immigration issues.  These idiots don’t understand how government works so here’s a basic lesson in civics.  The President is in charge of the Executive branch of the federal government.  As such it is his responsibility to run the governmental agencies and departments which carry out programs, services, regulatory bodies, etc.  He does this through the issuance of Executive Orders much as a corporate CEO does.

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Interestingly conservatives who, for years, have argued that government should be run more like business don’t seem to comprehend that a President or a Governor is much like a CEO.  Every President issues Executive Orders because that’s how our government operates.  In reality Barack Obama has issued far fewer Executive Orders than any of his recent predecessors.  (See the above graphic)

He acted on immigration because the GOP House has refused, for 17 months, to act on a bipartisan bill which passed the Senate.  The Teapublicans have refused to bring the bill to a vote.  Therefore Obama did what every President since Eisenhower has done: acted on immigration matters unilaterally through his constitutional powers to run the federal government.  It is his job to run ICE along with every other federal agency.  

Obama said this the other day about the Republican’s inaction:

“It has now been 512 days, a year and a half, in which the only thing standing in the way of that bipartisan bill and my desk, so I can sign the bill, is a simple yes or no vote in the House of Representatives,” Mr. Obama told the enthusiastic crowd.

Obama has deported more undocumented immigrants than any other President in recent history.  

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It is impossible though to deport 12 million people, many of whom didn’t sneak over the border.  About 38% of undocumented immigrants in this country simply overstayed their visas.  The cost to round up, detain and deport twelve million people would be staggering.  Considering conservatives long standing opposition to paying taxes this argument is interesting.  They’re certainly not willing to pay for such staggering costs.  Perhaps they think we can simply snap our fingers, say some magic words and have them all disappear.  Wait, didn’t Hitler try that with the Jews?

Five million of these people the President has chosen not to deport are family members who have close relations, parents or children, who are here legally.  Deporting them would break up family units.  Many more are children who were brought here illegally by their parents.   I did a TV show on BCTV earlier this year with two young women who are covered by his DACA Executive Order.

For people who claim to be all about “family values” the eagerness of conservatives to break up families is offensive.

Politics Today, Politics Tomorrow

My name is Nicholas Sones, I am currently a student. My major is political science. My interest in politics began in either the 9th or 10th grade. I had a teacher, who like all teachers inspired me, we would debate in her classes, and discuss issues that were facing this nation. I guess the reason that I am interested in politics still is because I like most Americans understand that it all begins with a good education, and behind that education is a public school teacher. I’ve volunteered for many candidates including Joe Sestak (my first campaign), recently I served as the field director for John Hanger, and then when he dropped out, I went on to serve as field director for Tom Wolf!

I chose to write for the PA Progressive, because writing about politics is somewhat of a hobby and I hope to one day turn it into a career!  

The Republican Wave That Isn’t

Guest Column by Nick Sones

The Republican wave of 2014 is not a wave at all, and if it, which I do not believe it is, it will only help the Democratic Party in 2016. Regardless of whom the nominee is, this will ensure that a Democrat is in the Whitehouse for another eight years.  The Republican Party will do anything and everything it can to ensure that President Obama’s agenda is derailed even though his agenda has kept America safe, and the unemployment rate in September of 2014 was 5.9% (new data is unavailable from the Bureau of Labor Statistics).  That is a significant improvement since the days of George W. Bush. Going back to how this will help the Democrats in 2016, it will help the Democrats because the Republicans will try to repeal the same law that they have tried to repeal, the Affordable Health Care Act (ACA), or to Republicans, Obamacare, 50 times in the United States House. According to CNN, as of March 5 of this year, the House will now try to repeal it for a 51st time, and then the bill will go to the Senate, the Senate will do the same and it will then be sent to the President Obama where it will be vetoed. They will try to undo everything this administration has done. This helps Democrats in 2016 because it allows for the Democratic candidate to tell the American people that everything they have worked for, Obamacare, goes away if you elect a republican president. Let’s not give the GOP what they want. Let’s work to strengthen America without going into another endless war. The Democrats will play the long game, which will allow us to win in 2016 regardless of whom the candidate may be. Mark my words; there will be a Democrat in the Whitehouse come 2016, for another eight years.  

Stripping Off Their Royalties

by Walter Brasch

     He’s there by 7 a.m. almost every Sunday except in late Fall and Winter to make money in one of the largest permanent flea markets in northeastern Pennsylvania. In three-foot long cardboard boxes he has an inventory of hundreds of paperbacks, all of them displayed spine up. Westerns. Romances. Adventures. Whatever you want. Three for a buck; fifty cents each. The books are virtually mint condition, and if you don’t mind reading something without a front cover, it’s a bargain, especially since paperbacks with the covers, sold at supermarkets, pharmacies, and bookstores, are now going for as much as $7.95 each.

     He isn’t the only one. There are thousands like him, although most don’t produce the sales volume he does. In flea markets and yard sales, individuals have bought what are known as “stripped books” from other flea markets and yard sales and sell them for pennies more; it’s just another way to make a few bucks.

     The only problem is that it’s illegal.

     The sale of stripped books is a significant and ongoing problem that involves fraud, possible copyright infringement, and some areas that take the crime into interstate commerce violations. However, police departments and prosecutors often don’t have the time, manpower, or resources to investigate and bring to court sellers of stripped books. To understand why the sale of stripped books is illegal, it’s important to know a little about the nature of book publishing. Although the major book chains usually buy books on the basis of a book’s cover and the promotion effort put out by the publisher, no one can predict which books will titillate American reading appetites, even with a $100,000 promotion campaign. So, publishers of the mass market paperbacks–the kind with colorfully-embossed titles superimposed over pirates and scantily-clad women on slick 4-1/4 by 6-3/4 inch covers–order large print quantities to try to saturate American bookstands. They sell these books to distributors for 55-65 percent of the list price-bookstores get 40 percent of that-and hope a few titles bring in enough profit to carry the rest of the line.

     Unique in the field of retail sales, booksellers can return to publishers for full credit any books they can’t sell. However, publishers have no desire to pay shipping costs for books they probably won’t redistribute, especially since there are another couple of dozen titles they’re trying to push that month. And, neither bookseller nor publisher wants several skids of taxable inventory. So, distributors and publishers sign contracts that allow the bookseller to send only the cover back to the publisher, tack on shipping costs, and agree to destroy the rest of the book to prevent further sale.

     The bookseller usually sends stripped books to a recycler who picks them up at no cost and makes his money by selling recycled pulp.

     However, some booksellers “forget” to send some books to a debindery or recycler, either selling some in their own store or, more likely, selling books for pennies apiece to mini-distributors. But, even if the bookseller (who can be the owner of just about any kind of a business) plays by all the rules-and most major bookstores do-and sends the books to a recycler, that doesn’t mean the books don’t show up again. Some books may be stolen in transit or in storage; and, a few unscrupulous companies may file claims they have shredded 10 tons of what is now literally literary garbage, but have really gotten rid of just nine tons, throwing the coverless books into the streets, like left over food for the cats. The cats, in this case, have pick-ups, and pay for the leftovers.

     So, what’s really the problem? After all, even though these transient booksellers probably don’t pay taxes on their income, it’s hard enough these days to make a buck. And, certainly, it’s a break for the readers who are more likely to buy a 50-cent paperback than one costing 15 times as much.

     The problem is that when a reader buys a stripped paperback, the publisher and author don’t receive any money. Since there’s no income to the publisher, there’s also no income to the author who is usually paid 5 percent of the list price of mass market paperbacks.

     Except for the few million-dollar deals that make the headlines every now and then, we authors don’t make a whole heap of money from our meager percentages. So every stripped or stolen book that’s sold means we get no money while a lot of people who had no part in the creative process are making money off of us. And, I really object to that.

     [Dr. Brasch, an award-winning journalist, has written 20 books. His latest is Fracking Pennsylvania, an overall look at the effects of fracking upon public health and the environment, with special focus upon the economics and politics of the practice.]


A Nation of Fear

by Walter Brasch

    Maintenance workers at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Pa., airport shot and killed a bear and her three cubs.

    The bears had crawled under a perimeter fence and were just lying around, several hundred yards from a runway. The airport director claimed the bears might have posed a risk to flights. The mother bear weighed less than most pro football linemen. While the airport officials were worrying about what a bear and her cubs might do, they probably should have been worrying why that fence wasn’t secure. If bears could crawl under it, couldn’t drunks or terrorists also get into unauthorized areas of the airport?

    Earlier this year, the airport workers killed a bear who had gone onto a parking lot and climbed away from humans. The airport director also claimed the bear might have hurt someone. He claimed the reason the bears were not tranquilized was because his maintenance workers weren’t trained to tranquilize bears. He claimed the Game Commission possibly could not have gotten to the site fast enough to assist.

    The airport director also said it wasn’t the policy to publicize the killings, apparently in an attempt to keep the public ignorant of what the airport does to animals.

    A week later, about 30 miles away, near Catawissa, Pa., a Game Commission officer came onto private property and killed a baby raccoon that had posed no threat to anyone.

    The family had rescued the raccoon after her mother was killed by a car. The family bottle-fed the raccoon. They made a small hutch for the raccoon who often went into the woods. The family says they planned to release the animal when it was strong enough, according to reporter Julye Wemple.

    It didn’t matter to the Game Commission officer. Dixie had to be killed, he said. The animal might have rabies, he said. He refused to quarantine it. He refused to allow it to run back into the woods. He refused to allow the family to apply for a permit to keep the raccoon-the family didn’t realize they had to go through a paper jungle in order to do a humane act. At first, he even refused to take the animal away from the house to kill it. It was a final, desperate plea by the parents who didn’t want their four-year-old to see the murder.

    After the officer fired two shots into Dixie-the first didn’t kill her-he then cited the family for unlawful acts concerning the taking of furbearers. Maybe, the Game Commission officer thought his badge allowed him to kill rather than protect animals.

    The Game Commission officer’s inhumanity now allows every person to kill every animal on sight-just because it might have rabies. Maybe, it will attack us. Or, maybe, it’s just an annoyance.

    Fear is a dominant trait in our society.

    We buy .357 Magnums so we can blow away robbers-or in fear of neighbors who take short-cuts through our back yards at night. Or to murder people whose views are different from ours. Three recent high-profile cases revealed Whites killing Blacks because they might be dangerous.

    We fear ideas that aren’t what we believe, so we continue to ban books and whine about the National Endowment for the Arts, forgetting that our nation was founded upon a libertarian principle that all views should be heard.

    In a nation that seems to value appearance over intellect, a nation where there are no ugly anchors on TV, we are so afraid of not looking at least as well as anyone else that we spend billions for makeup to cover blemishes; we go to spas, gyms, and plastic surgeons to “tone up our flab” so no one scorns us for being fat. Augmentations to fill out. Liposuctions to reduce. Preparation H to shrink our wrinkles.

    We don’t hire the handicapped, the short, the tall, the fat, the skinny because they’re “different.” We fear and condemn gays, lesbians, and same-sex marriage, trying to justify our contempt and our fear as a voice from God. Some among us are anti-Semitic and racist, irrationally justifying their own pathetic existence.

    While proclaiming our individuality, we try our best to look, act, and think like everyone else, ‘lest someone label us “different” or, worse, “radical.” We are so afraid of not being “cool” that we allow advertising to dictate what we wear, what we eat and drink, and even what we drive.     We go to college because we’re afraid we won’t get a good job, and then spend 40 years on that job afraid to do anything different or creative, afraid to speak out for fear of displeasing someone who might discipline or fire us.     We are so afraid that someone else will get something more than we have, so instead of fighting to get better wages and working conditions, we attack unions and public school teachers.

    We are afraid of the homeless because they look different, sometimes smell of booze, and sometimes even want to talk with us, to tell us about their lives and how they became homeless. We don’t want to hear that chatter. We have so many more important things to do-like go to our jobs so we can afford that nice mortgaged house and leased car.

    We condemn those who receive public assistance, whether disabled, elderly, or just a single unwed mother who made a mistake. We fear that every dollar they receive is one dollar less that we can spend on our own necessities and luxuries.

     We are afraid of children who escape Honduras, cross into Mexico, and then into the U.S. to seek asylum. They might be terrorists. They might take our welfare. They might want our jobs. For some on the far-right lunatic fringe, the solution is to kill those who cross our borders illegally. Why not just nuke Honduras and solve the problem entirely?

    We fear and condemn Arabs and Muslims, and plan to destroy their countries, because some of them are terrorists, not acknowledging that every ethnicity and religion has its own terrorists. For some, the solution is to launch pre-emptive strikes against-well, everything-just because something might happen.

    That which we don’t understand-or want to understand-we attack, leaving us condemned to an isolation of ignorance.

    Those who believe they are Christians often ask, “What would Jesus do?”

    Would Jesus want us to buy guns to kill people and animals? Would Jesus want us to ban books and ideas we don’t agree with? Would Jesus want us to concentrate upon appearance? Would Jesus want us to believe the half-truths of politics and corporate advertising? Would Jesus condone racism, sexism, Anti-Semitism, ageism, and homophobia? Would Jesus want us to condemn immigrants, children who are seeking asylum, and those who are the weakest and poorest of our society. Would Jesus want us to condemn those who live on communes or join unions? Would Jesus deliberately kill a mother bear and her cubs who didn’t threaten anyone? Would Jesus kill a baby raccoon who posed no threat? Would Jesus want us to live a life of fear?

    The answer is obvious.

    [Dr. Brasch’s current book is Fracking Pennsylvania, an overall look at the effects of fracking upon health, agriculture, and the environment.]