Thursday, May 08, 2008


God, I'm sick of reading stories like the one below where someone, usually a young African American man, is shot over and over by police who seem to want to make absolutely certain they are dead.

Well they can be sure Aaren Gwinn is...dead.

Witnesses say the police shot him eight times.

Police are, as always, looking into the matter.

To serve and protect, oh yeah, right.

The cops have a story, of course. They always do. The stories they come up with always sound pretty much the same.

These cops say they got an anonymous tip a car Gwinn was in contained drugs. So good cops that they were they pulled that car over in the 1500 block of Jackson Street in North Chicago. They point out Aaren Gwinn was a passenger in the car. They say as officers were speaking to the driver of the car, Demetrius Gibson, 30, of North Chicago, whom they had ordered out of the car, Gwinn jumped into the driver's seat and began driving off. So they killed him dead.

Who wouldn't? That will be their defense, "who wouldn't".

Following the shooting, police say they found crack cocaine and pot on Gwinn. Of course they did. They always do.

The authorities quickly released information that Gwinn had been arrested and jailed before i.e. Gwinn was an ex-con so, hell, why not shoot him?

Did I mention that the "dangerous" Gwinn, unlike these cops, these defenders of law and order, was not armed?

That Gwinn did not have a weapon, however, is inconsequential, a police spokesman told the Chicago Tribune. That same spokesman said the car could be considered a weapon.

Well, that takes care of that problem.

Did I mention residents of the area saw things differently?

"They shot a black male," said Terry Harris, who surveyed the scene of the shooting from his motorcycle. "Growing up here you're used to brutality. You don't ask what's going on. You say 'They did it again.'"

"We want people to feel safe here, not just from gang and gun violence, but from the police too," LaTonya founder of the non-profit Love to the People, told the Lake County News-Sun.

"They won't shoot a cougar, but they shoot unarmed humans," said an uncle, who declined to give his name. "Black boys, that's what they shoot."

People are also asking questions.

Did police follow procedure on the stop? Why was it necessary to shoot Gwinn as reported "several" times to stop him? If police suspected the men were armed (as they claimed), why were Gwinn and a second passenger allowed to remain in the car (which the cops apparently consider a weapon)?

Antionette McDaniel, 37, of Atlanta, one of the victim's five siblings, said the Gwinn family has been harassed by police. She and other family members claim drugs were planted on the victim in a previous arrest and that he had been badly beaten in another altercation with police.

Guess what? Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran admits, Gwinn was hospitalized after an arrest by Waukegan police in August 2006. Gwinn also complained that North Chicago police roughed him up during another arrest in November 2007 -- that claim was documented -- Curran confessed.

McDaniel, a college graduate and budding playwright, said her brother was planning to move to Atlanta.

"Aaren was not the thug they're painting him to be," she said. "He was a dean's list student at Waukegan High. He was a wrestler. He played piano at the North Chicago Community Youth Center. He was very outgoing and he loved people."

Yeah, but he was black and an ex-con (thus expendable), so the cops killed him.

They always do!

The following is from the Lake County News-Times.

'The cops were on each side'

NORTH CHICAGO -- Why was Aaren Gwinn shot to death by police Tuesday?

That was the question among angry bystanders and witnesses in the 1400 block of Jackson Street.

Gwinn, 21, was a passenger in a silver 2008 Pontiac Grand Prix headed north on Jackson at about 1:53 p.m. when two unmarked police vehicles pulled the car over at 15th Street. The car was driven by Demetrius Gibson, according to Gloria "Precious" Gibson, his sister, who said she was driving directly in front of her brother and Gwinn, her first cousin, and saw what happened.

"The cops were on each side," Gibson sobbed at the scene. "Aaren was in the passenger seat, but after they made Demetrius get out, Aaren slid over to the driver's seat and that's when they shot him."

Gibson and others who claim to have witnessed the shooting say police pumped seven or eight bullets into Gwinn at close range.

"They had their guns pointed inside the car," Gibson said. "They shot him, and then they rammed him. They didn't even yell a warning."

Josephine "Josie" Gwinn, of Waukegan, sat crying in front of the small brick ranch just south of 14th Street where Demetrius Gibson, Gwinn, and a third passenger, Steven Bell, 26, had been heading.

"They did this on purpose, I know they did," Gwinn said. "He's been running from the police since he was 2 years old. He was afraid of them."

Mrs. Gwinn said that her son -- the youngest of her six children and the father of 1-year-old Aareriana and a newborn -- had recently been released from jail.

"He was always respectful to me," she said.

According to the Illinois Department of Corrections, Gwinn served time for drug and battery convictions but was paroled last year.

"He was trying to turn his life around and do the right thing," said the Aaren's sister, LaAngel Gwinn. "He was trying to take care of his baby."

Gibson and Bell had intended to pick up a truck parked in the driveway of Gibson's parents home, in the same block where the shooting occurred. Willie Gibson said his son used the truck for the collection of scrap metal. Gibson and other relatives said Demetrius, who has also served time, was frequently stopped by police.

"He knows to cooperate," Gibson said.

"Why didn't they tell everybody to get out of the car?" an uncle asked.

Gloria Gibson, Demetrius Gibson's mother and the victim's aunt, said she ran to the car immediately after the shooting, but police tried to push her back. She said Gwinn's lifeless body sat collapsed against the driver's seat, his hand on the steering wheel.

"They filled him up full of holes," she said. "That's why they didn't want to let us see him."

Witnesses claim none of the men were carrying weapons.

Police cordoned off Jackson Street between 14th and 15th streets. The Lake County Major Crime Task Force was called in, and officers from that group were canvassing the neighborhood Tuesday in search of more witnesses.

North Chicago Police Sgt. Sal Cecala said at the scene that detectives directly involved in the shooting were meeting with Police Chief Mike Newsome late Tuesday afternoon. The department had not released information at press time.

"We have an investigation going," Cecala said. "We have to do our job first. Then we can answer questions. There's very little to say right now.

"My condolences go to this family," he added.

Neighbors and passersby continued to ring the scene at 5 p.m. Some made angry comments.

"They were intending to kill that child," one woman said.

Gwinn, who would have turned 22 on July 30, was pronounced dead at Vista Medical Center East in Waukegan.

Lake County Coroner Richard Keller told the News-Sun Wednesday morning that Gwinn was shot 'a few' times. He disagreed with witness reports that Gwinn was shot seven or eight times but would not reveal the exact number because of the ongoing police investigation. Results of toxicology tests will be available this afternoon.


As Lebanon erupts into civil war, to the south the state of Israel was marking its 60th birthday today. While Israel celebrated the anniversary of its creation, the Arab world mourned the displacement of the Palestinians - referred to as the "Nakba," or catastrophe.

Nearly 2,000 Arab Israelis marked the "catastrophe" that befell them with the establishment of Israel in 1948. The main event of the day for them took place atop the ruins of Tzipori, an Arab town in the Galilee which was destroyed in 1948. There demonstrators led a procession in which some of the participants chanted "Palestine is Arab from the sea to the river," and "Zionists out!"

The march, traditionally marking the expulsion of Palestinian refugees from their land during the War of Independence, led protesters from Nazareth towards the deserted ruins of the village of Suffurriye – today's Zippori.

Clashes followed with police (see picture above).

Among those injured was Balad’s MK Wasil Taha who told Y Net News how he was hurt, “It all happened when I tried to send the police away and calm the situation down. I saw a police officer in civilian clothing…He hit me three times on the head. They evacuated me to hospital. ..There were also provocations by the (Israeli) rightists, but the police did nothing to stop them.”

Hadash Chairman MK Mohammad Barakeh said that the riots were caused because the police did allow the rally-goers to properly disperse.

Barakeh said, “The police was nasty to the demonstrators, expecting them to simply vanish. I condemn the police’s behavior. The event was perfectly organized, only the police prepared itself for provocation against the mass.”

Israeli Northern Region District Commander Shimon Koren blamed the Palestinians,“When the rally was granted permission its organizers gave their explicit obligation to avoid provocation. Unfortunately, the organizers were not able to control the wild incitement."

According to him, the riots began when the If You Will group, Israel’s largest volunteer student and young adult movement, who was picnicking across the road, raised the Israeli Flag. The participants asked them to lower the flag and the two sides began to exchange words that led to a violent clash.

In other activities, Palestinian and black flags were raised on roof tops of buildings, a partial public strike was conducted by Israeli Arabs and demonstrations took place across the occupied territories.

At least 700 Palestinians from the southern West Bank district marched side by side next to the largest key in the world to mark the 60th anniversary of the Nakba. The event, which was organized by the Palestinian Committee for commemorating the 60th Nakba year, started at around midday from the Duhyisha Refugee camp located in the southern part of Bethlehem. The rally and march was lead by a truck carrying the largest key in the world, representing the Palestinian refugees displace in 1948 by the creation of the Israeli state.

The 700 strong march, reports Palestine Today, continued through Al Azah refugee camp then to Ayidah refugee camp where the key was installed on a concrete gate.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad was among the dignitaries who attended the inauguration of a tented "camp of return" in the West Bank town of Ramallah today. The exhibit features displays of photographs and documents dating back to the 1948 creation of Israel which turned hundreds of thousands of people into refugees.

In a statement issued today, the National Committee for Commemorating the Nakba called for all Palestinians to participate in protest actions at " the celebrations by the state of occupation [Israel] at its establishment on the remains of Palestinian cities and villages by expressing the clinging of the Palestinians of their 'Right of Return' which is a legitimate right."

The cultural centre of the village of Beit A'nan and a number of other organizations in the area of north west of Jerusalem will organize a rally on Friday afternoon. More than 500 children will participate, each wearing a uniform carrying banners, keys and Palestinian flags under the slogan " so that we will not live the Nakba twice."

The rally will set out from a local school in the nearby village of Beit Ijza to the adjacent village of Bedu, where a festival will be held commemorating the Nakba.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian News Network has reported that the Israeli military closed the Beit Iba Checkpoint “until further notice.” The western Nablus checkpoint is a central passing point for Palestinians moving between cities in the northern West Bank.

The Israeli authorities attributed the closure of the checkpoint to the visit of hundreds of Israeli settlers to the settlement of Shaveh Shomron.

It was vacated by the Israeli army for more than two years. But now it is being reopened for the Israeli 60 year celebrations.

Hundreds of Israeli soldier have been deployed in western Nablus, in addition to closing several roads. Flying checkpoints are now commonplace throughout the entire area. Hundreds of Palestinians and their vehicles are being detained and inspected.

As Palestinians remembered what happened to them six decades ago, hundreds of thousands of Israelis took to the streets and parks across Israel Thursday to celebrate the 60th independence day of the state of Israel. Across the country, during the day, after a night of fireworks and free entertainment in town centers, Israelis were out on family picnics in national parks and nature spots and visited open military installations and historical sites, museums and galleries. Air force aerobatics roared overhead up and down the country with no further incident, and the Navy put on a show opposite the beaches. Blue and white flags festooned many buildings and cars.

There were carnival events for children and in Haifa the Israeli army band marched with eight visiting military ensembles. Police leaves were cancelled after the receipt of 12 tip-offs of threatened terrorist attacks, especially in Jerusalem, where an array of foreign dignitaries attended state events.

High points of national history – tragic and joyous - were retold in radio and television programs and live interviews throughout the holiday.

Overseen by Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik, members of the Israeli security forces raised the national flag from half to full mast, marking the end of Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and terror victims and the beginning of Independence Day in Jerusalem.

Thousands of other Israelis celebrated Independence Day by flocking to hilltop communities in Judea and Samaria (also known as the occupied territories) for a day of song and solidarity with settlers there.

For example, at least 2,000 people held picnics, barbecues and hikes at the settler community of Migron. They gathered at the mountaintop site to express their support for Israeli sovereignty in the region.

Participants streamed to the hilltop under the banner of, “We stand up for what’s ours – Migron!” According to Ynet, the IDF and police officially permitted the event.

The celebration was part of a broader initiative that is being run by the Loyalists for the Land of Israel, Youth for the Land of Israel, Women in Green and Adamah Admati.(This Land is My Land).

While Israel was born on May 15 and that is the traditional date for Nakba, because the Jewish Calendar makes today Israel Independence day "both sides" were out doing what they were doing.

The following is from Haaretz.

Five cops and two Arab MKs hurt as clashes erupt at Naqba Day protest

Nearly a dozen people were injured on Thursday, including five police officers and two Israeli Arab Knesset members, in clashes that erupted at a demostration in the north marking the 60th Naqba Day, as Palestinians refer to Israel's Independence Day.

The clashes broke out at a demonstration in Kfar Safuriyah, near Nazareth. As the event was coming to a close, a group of youths gathered on Route 70 where a group of rightists were holding a counter-protest.

Police had blocked off the highway to prevent clashes between the two groups. A fight then broke out between police and dozens of the Israeli Arab youths.

According to Jezreel Valley police, officers used stun grenades to disperse the crowd.

Five cops, including Northern District Police chief Shimon Koren, sustained light injuries after protesters hurled rocks at them, said the police.

Six protesters were also hurt, including Balad MK Wasel Taha, who sustained light head injuries and MK Mohammed Barakeh, who was struck in his legs during the demonstration.

Five people were arrested following the clashes.

More than a 1,000 people gathered at the demonstration on Thursday, including leaders of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, members of Knesset, Israeli Arab political leaders and social justice groups.

In the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinians also staged Naqba Day events.

In Bethlehem, villagers marched with a huge key, to symbolize the hope of
refugees to return to their now-leveled villages in Israel. In
Nablus, people flew kites emblazoned with return. The 1948 refugees and their descendants number around 4.5 million and are scattered across the region


"Oh My Gov" blog reports FBI agents Tuesday raided and temporarily shut down the offices of a federal watchdog agency charged with protecting the rights of government whistle-blowers that has been accused of retaliating against whistle-blowers in its own ranks.

The raid on the Office of Special Counsel and another at the home of its director, Scott Bloch, followed accusations that Bloch had destroyed evidence on government computers that might demonstrate wrongdoing.

Why is this of interest to me?

Well, it seems that Bloch has a connection to the original Oread Daily's old stomping grounds at the University of Kansas (KU) and a strange curriculum there entitled the "Integrated Humanities Program (IHP)." IHP was run by the three men pictured here (from left to right they are John Senior, Dennis Quinn, and Franklyn Nelick).

The following was written by my friend Bill Berkowitz. Like Bill I remember the Integrated Humanities Program (described in his piece below) and the professors involved in it. I also remember having a run in with one of them, though I don't remember today which one it was.

They were a weird operation.

The following report is from

Bloch-ing Justice: Who is Scott Bloch and why is the FBI investigating him?
By Bill Berkowitz, Talk2Action

In early October 2004, five Democratic members of Congress called on President Bush to "take the necessary action" in regards to Scott Bloch, the head of the Office of Special Counsel.

Bloch had refused "to enforce anti-discrimination protections for federal workers contradict[ing] Bush Administration policy to uphold former President Clinton's executive order banning discrimination based on sexual orientation," the Washington Blade had reported.

The letter to the president was signed by gay House members Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), along with Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.), Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and George Miller (D-Calif.).

On Tuesday, May 6, McClathchy Newspapers reported that "FBI agents ... searched the office and [Virginia] home of ... Bloch ... as part of an investigation into whether he obstructed an inquiry into allegations of his own misconduct."

Since his appointment the relatively unknown Bloch has been wielding a heavy hand and been the source of a series of controversies.

Who is Scott Bloch and how did he wind up as head of the Office of Special Counsel?

Up from Kansas

After graduating from the Law School at the University of Kansas, Scott Bloch was a partner in a Kansas law firm specializing in civil rights law, employment law and legal ethics.

He came to the special counsel's office after a stint as deputy director of the Justice Department's Task Force for Faith-based and Community Initiatives. The Washington Blade pointed out that he is "a devout Catholic and staunch social conservative" who revealed on a Senate disclosure form that he had been the former Lincoln Fellow at the Claremont Institute, a right wing California-based think tank that vigorously opposes the gay rights movement.

Scott Bloch was born in New York City, where his father Walter wrote for Broadway and television programs, the Lawrence Journal-World -- the hometown newspaper of the University of Kansas -- pointed out in an April 2002 profile.

At age 3, Bloch moved to Los Angeles where his father contributed to such popular television programs as "Gilligan's Island," "Hawaii Five-O," "Bonanza," and "The Flintstones."

Bloch's grandfather, Albert, a man of Jewish descent, was a noted abstract expressionist painter. Albert Bloch was "the only American member of 'Der Blaue Reiter,' (The Blue Rider), Germany's most important group of artists in the 20th century," Dan Hayes wrote in a January 1997 article.

An American Art Review piece by University of Kansas Art Professor David Cateforis pointed out that Albert Bloch's paintings had religious themes, with striking renderings of biblical figures, including Jesus Christ and showed strong Christian leanings throughout his painting career.

Albert Bloch became head of the department of drawing and painting at KU, where he taught from 1923 to 1947, and worked in Lawrence until his death in 1961.

At some point, Bloch's father changed his last name to Black for "professional reasons." The Washington Blade speculated that the change may have "occurred in the 1950s, during the height of the Hollywood 'red scare.'" By that time Sen. McCarthy's investigations had spread to Hollywood's film industry, and "anti-Semitism, as well as prejudice against perceived membership in liberal and 'leftist' groups, became a factor that prompted some writers and film industry workers to change their names to hide their Jewish ancestry."

At age seventeen, Scott changed his name back to Bloch.

Converting Catholics in Kansas?

While at the University of Kansas, Bloch enrolled in the experimental Integrated Humanities Program -- a controversial curriculum established in 1971 to counter the anti-war and women's movements and a growing demand for greater multiculturalism on campus. Organized by three conservative English Department Professors, Dennis Quinn, John Senior, and Franklyn Nelick the program was geared toward teaching the classics, and had a strong Catholic bent.

In a telephone interview, Professor Quinn insisted that the project "was apolitical," although he admitted that "we talked about everything under the sun." Some critics of the program "alleged that we were making Roman Catholics out of everyone," Prof. Quinn said. "We talked about religions, but we had no specific point of view."

(Disclosure: Nearly forty years ago, I was enrolled at the University of Kansas in Professor Quinn's "Seventeenth Century Minor Poets," a class that was not part of the IHP.)

The IHP ended in 1979 amidst charges of proselytizing and "cult-like" behavior. Professor Quinn, who has kept in contact with Bloch over the years, told me he believed "that sometime during the program he [Bloch] converted [from Judaism] to Catholicism," a development which "didn't surprise" him.

Although he hadn't heard about Bloch's earliest travails in the Special Counsel's office, Professor Quinn allowed that Bloch is "brash, not in an offensive way, but he wasn't afraid to say what he thought. And, he had strong views. He may," the professor added, "be just a little imprudent."

According to the Washington Blade, when assumed the Office, he hired at least two religious conservatives "and offered the No. 2 post at the OSC to a college professor from Wyoming who helped form an anti-gay campus group," who turned him down.

On Tuesday, May 6, McClatchy Newspapers reported that "Agents are looking into whether Bloch deleted his agency's computer files to hinder an outside investigation of his treatment of employees, the officials said."

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


The following is from Phili IMC.

Cab Drivers Mobilize

WHAT: Philadelphia Parking Authority Public Hearing
WHERE: Philadelphia Convention Center (12th and Arch St.) Rm. 108B
WHEN: Thursday, May 8 - 9AM-12PM

During these times of exorbitant fuel prices, the Taxi Workers Alliance (TWA) is strongly opposing 21-pages of newly imposed fines, fees and regulations the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA) is proposing at a public hearing tomorrow. The new fines and regulations will make it impossible for cabbies to feed and clothe their families forcing TWA and taxi drivers to seriously consider a citywide strike.

One example of a new fine the PPA is attempting to levy on drivers: A $525 fee for drivers who are either forced or choose to change radio dispatch companies. This completely new fee is added on top of the existing costs of changing companies which average $500. It is important to note that while the PPA incurs no costs when a driver changes companies, this $525 would go directly into the PPA's coffers. And, as recent news reports have shown, the PPA has not lived up to it's promise of using this money to aid the schools or vital services of the city.

Under the newly proposed rules taxi drivers will also be forced to make dispatch pick-ups regardless of where a fare is and how far that fare is going. This may seem reasonable, but it often means a cab driver in the NorthEast will be called to pick up a passenger in South Philly who is only going a few blocks. This does not make sense for consumers or for drivers, and with high gas prices drivers actually lose money on these jobs.

At the same time, in June the PPA will implement meter increases against drivers' wishes; costing passengers more money and hurting drivers' business. The PPA is using these increases to justify the new fees on drivers.

As Philadelphians are feeling the pain at the pump, imagine how rising gas prices are affecting cab drivers. Because of the seriousness of the situation, TWA calls on the community to join us on Thursday morning, as members of the taxi industry comment on the new proposals at a public hearing convened by the PPA. The PPA made these new proposals, it is holding this public hearing, and the PPA board will make the ultimate decision. While this is an opportunity for drivers to voice their opinions, it is questionable if their voices will be heard, unless it is clear to the PPA that Philadelphians are closely watching how they treat the hard workers of the city.

TWA Leader Tekle Gebremedhin is pictured above challenging the PPA in a photo taken by Photo by Harvey Finkle,


As arrests mount in the three day transport strike in Nicaragua La Prensa reports that country's business sector has reported millions of dollars in losses as a result of that strike.

Nicaraguan taxi and bus drivers that transport an estimated 1.5 million people a day say they won't start up their engines again until the government sits down to negotiate a solution to skyrocketing gas prices, the highest in Central America.

The strike also includes trucks drivers.

At least 80 percent of urban and interurban public transportation and cabs from most of the country's 17 departments have supported the protest, according to several sources.

As the strike has gone on there have been increasing incidents between the strikers and the National Police. Police spokeswoman, Commissioner Major Vilma Reyes, warned that authorities will take tough action against strikers who violate the law.

Vidal Almendárez, president of the Federation of Taxi Drivers says in the Nica Times, There's been no response from the president of the republic to end the strike. There have been attempts to negotiate locally, but we're telling them negotiations have to happen here in the capital.”

The only bus drivers that have kept the motors running were those on urban Managua routes, which receive a subsidized gas price that is about half the market price for gas in Nicaragua, which was more than 90 córdobas a gallon this week ($4.70).

Almendárez said the rest of the country's bus and taxi drivers want a deal similar to Managua buses, and want the government to sit down with driver union leaders to find a solution.

The cost of fuel is high everywhere, but salaries in Nicaragua are oftentimes only USD$200 a month, making a tank of gas ($50) almost out of reach.

The majority of vehicles in Managua are not privately owned, they are taxis and vans for hire.

Meanwhile, at least 90 percent of Guatemala is affected by a heavy transportation strike there, which is also in its third day today. Nearly 1,200 containers loaded with merchandise, some of them perishable, are stranded on Atlantic and Pacific roads, according to organizers of the protests.

The following is from
Monsters and Critics.

Over 100 arrested in Nicaraguan clashes during transport strike

Managua - Nicaraguan police arrested over 100 people Wednesday during the third day of a transport strike in the Central American country.

National Police Commissioner Vilma Reyes told Nicaraguan media on Wednesday that the arrests were carried out late Tuesday, after strike activists threw stones at police officers in several parts of the country.

Protests from freight, long-distance bus and taxi services are demanding that the government 'freeze' the price of fuel or subsidize the sector in the face of the international rise in the price of oil. During the protests traffic across Nicaragua was reduced to private cars and urban buses, although the latter have threatened to join the strike.

The leftist government of President Daniel Ortega has not commented on the situation.


Protests and street, bridge and tunnel blockades have taken place today in New York, Chicago and Atlanta by many upset about the outrageous verdict in the Sean Bell police murder case.

There have already been dozens of arrests.

In Harlem, two dozen people were arrested when they tried to block the entrance to the Triborough Bridge.

At the Queensborough Bridge on New York's upper east side dozens more were in handcuffs with minutes.

In Brooklyn, a crowd of several hundred led by City Councilman Charles Barron (D-East New York) and Rev. Herbert Daughtry chanted, "We are all Sean Bell!" as they headed for the Brooklyn Bridge - where they met up with another group led by Rev. Al Sharpton . At the bridge Sharpton was arrested as hundreds of demonstrators blocked traffic to protest the acquittals of the three detectives in the 50-bullet shooting of the unarmed Sean Bell. Arrested with Sharpton were two survivors of the shooting Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman and Bell's fiancee, Nicole Paultre.

Shortly after 3 p.m., some protesters kneeled down at the entrance of the Queens Midtown Tunnel, where more than 100 protesters gathered. Chanting "Justice for Sean Bell," they brought traffic to a standstill, blocking the entrance to the tunnel.

"It has nothing to do with race or being anti-NYPD," said demonstrator Antwan Minter, 31, of Harlem. "This is about basic human rights."

I don't know that I could say that.

Seems to me it has everything to do with race and the police... and "basic human rights."

"Today we are here to be peaceful," Hazel Dukes, president of the New York chapter of the NAACP, said. "Sean Bell will never be back with his wife and his two children, so there will never be justice for Sean Bell. We don't want there to ever be another Sean Bell."

Prior to the march Sharpton, speaking of the expected arrests of protesters, declared, "If you are not going to lock up the guilty in this town, then I guess you'll have to lock up the innocent."

It would be nice to see Barack Obama out there with the protesters, but that's not gonna happen, is it?

The following is from the NY Times.

Bell Protesters Block Traffic Across City

Several hundred protesters briefly shut down traffic at entrances to the Queensboro Bridge, the Triborough Bridge, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge and the Queens-Midtown Tunnel this afternoon as part of a coordinated series of protests over the acquittal of three New York City police officers in the fatal shooting of Sean Bell in 2006. The Rev. Al Sharpton, who coordinated the protests, was among dozens and perhaps hundreds of people who were arrested by the police — nearly all of them in an orderly fashion — for blocking traffic.

The protesters expressed outrage over a Queens judge’s decision on April 25 to acquit the three detectives — Michael Oliver, Gescard F. Isnora and Marc Cooper — over the November 2006 death of Mr. Bell, who died in a hail of police bullets outside a nightclub in Jamaica, Queens, hours before he was to have been married.

The Rev. Al Sharpton and his National Action Network coordinated the protests, which were to include five locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn, as well as protests in Chicago and Atlanta.

The largest protest site appeared to be outside the New York City police headquarters in Lower Manhattan, where hundreds of protesters began gathering around 3 p.m. Mr. Sharpton emerged around 4:15 p.m., joined by Mr. Bell’s fiancée, Nicole Paultre Bell, as well as Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield, two friends who were shot and injured along with Mr. Bell. Leading a large crowd, they gathered on a traffic island in Centre Street, in front of the city’s Municipal Building, and blocked the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge. They sat down and prayed, blocking traffic, until the police began a mass arrest of protesters starting around 4:40 p.m. Police officers placed plastic “zip cuffs” on the wrists of the protesters, taking the men and women away separately.

Earlier in the afternoon, a smaller crowd of about protesters gathered on the East Side of Manhattan near the entrance to the Queensboro Bridge. Around 3:30 p.m. they stepped onto the lanes of the bridge, blocking traffic for about 30 minutes. The Rev. Dock Johnson, pastor of Community Baptist Church in South Ozone Park, Queens, kneeling with both arms extended and wearing a pin-striped suit, a leather cap and sunglasses, led the protesters, who sat down in the middle of the traffic lanes. After they resisted police orders to disperse, the protesters — including Mr. Johnson — were placed in plastic handcuffs and arrested.

Also on the East Side of Manhattan, around the same time, 100 protesters marched east on 34th Street before turning north of Second Avenue. A group of about 40 formed a line across the entrance to the Queens-Midtown Tunnel and formed a line, chanting. They blocked traffic for about 10 minutes until about 20 were arrested; the remainder continued their protest but stopped blocking traffic.

Uptown, a group of about 150 protesters gathered on 125th Street, Harlem’s main thoroughfare, and briefly blocked traffic leading to the Triborough Bridge; several dozen protesters were arrested.

A crowd of about 200 people gathered in Brooklyn, many of them blocking the entrance to the Manhattan Bridge; a city official said that 23 were arrested.
Sewell Chan, David Giambusso, C. J. Hughes, Sharon Otterman and Karen Zraick contributed reporting.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


Now please don't confuse me with Hillary Clinton, but its true I've suddenly gotten into NASCAR. How could this happen to some left wing Jew kid out in the middle of nowhere?

I'll tell ya its like this. I've long kinda suspected that I should look into NASCAR. After all it seems to be the sport of note for untold numbers of working Americans and all. These are the same Americans that so many "liberal" types look down on as rabble. Well, since as you noted, if you read my post last week "THE LAWSON FILE: LIMOUSINE LIBERALS THEN AND NOW," I've long had a problem with that crowd so whatever they're looking down on has got to be worth checking out.

My father-in-law whom I greatly admire has long been a fan so I've caught bits and pieces while visiting (and once went with him to the local NASCAR track when for I think his 68th birthday or something, he got to roar around at 100+ miles per hour one sunny day).

So a while back I read about this book "One Helluva Ride: How NASCAR Swept the Nation" which sounded pretty interesting...and it turns out it is. The history of NASCAR is a history of part of this nation which no one teaches in college. They ought to though.

So I started to learn about it and last Saturday night really experienced my first NASCA experience (on TV) the Lowery 400 at the Richmond International Raceway. I was somewhat mesmerized with the whole thing. Who knows why? But I think I'm hooked.

The ending was something to see...As the NASCAR web site reports racing for the lead with two laps remaining in the scheduled 400-lap event, KyleBusch and Dale Earnhardt Jr.(who happens to be the big favorite) bumped and banged until Busch eventually turned Earnhardt around (see picture) and sent Earnhardt's chances of ending a 71-race winless streak spinning into oblivion (Note: Clint Boyer actually ending up winning).

Thousands upon thousands of Earnhardt fans in attendance howled in protest. Others no doubt unwisely hurled 12-ounce projectiles at their television sets. Kyle Busch's name was widely cursed throughout this land.

Ironically, Earnhardt, Jr.'s dad the original Dale Earnhardt was one of the toughest racers on the track until he died in a last-lap crash during the 2001 Daytona 500, the fourth NASCAR driver to die in a nine month period that began with the death of Adam Petty in May 2000. That crash by the way forced NASCAR to adopt some long needed safety measures long advocated by the drivers to protect them and their fans.

Earnhardt once had his share of haters, too. Junior Johnson, the former driver and car owner, once became infuriated at Earnhardt for wrecking his driver, Darrell Waltrip, and swears even today that nothing was ever the same again for the two of them. Dale Inman, legendary crew chief for Richard Petty, got so incensed at Earnhardt over another incident that for a while afterward, he refused to speak to him.

The senior Earnhardt is probably now remembered as one of the greatest drivers ever and also one of the most popular.

Kyle Bush was just trying to win a race. I guarantee you if Earnhardt Jr. had hit Kyle Bush there would have been no outcry from his fans. Even a total rookie like me knows that (but that's another story).

As Joe Menzer writes, "Getting booed loudly and by large numbers, as Busch surely will this Saturday night at Darlington and even more so again later this month when the All-Star Race and Coca-Cola 600 are held at Lowe's Motor Speedway, is in many ways a sign of respect."

"It's nothing new to this sport," Busch said.

(Remember that when you get down to the end of this posting)

Anyway, the deal with NASCAR is interesting. Unlike most sports it is entirely owned by one family. They set the rules. That is a big problem. The bosses in total control always is. As someone wrote recently, "When a driver, car owner, track owner or anyone with a concern approaches them. It is as if they will let you talk. Express your concern, but then they will dismiss you like you had never said anything."

Drivers have attempted a couple of times to come together (once even using the dreaded word back then in the South "union") but both attempts failed. The second time though largely because Richard Petty, perhaps, the most successful stock-car race driver in history was a leader the drivers got some results. What was called the Professional Drivers Association (note: not union) made a variety of demands that the way things worked be changed and also raised the very real issue that the Talladega race track was not safe to race on. What this group of drivers accomplished has certainly benefited drivers ever since.

But still the Professional Drivers Association failed because Bill France (whose family owns NASCAR to this day) let it be known that if the top drivers wanted to race in NASCAR, they had to race by his rules. France brought in scab drivers to race at the inaugural race at Talladega when top drivers boycotted.

Since these drivers wanted to race, they folded their union and went back to racing on NASCAR terms.

Every since then NASCAR has just run stock car racing on their terms.

It's America, stupid. NASCAR is America.

You gotta fight to get it right in America and that's how its always been out in the NASCAR world, too . Today a number of drivers have again expressed a variety of concerns especially once more safety issues. We'll see where that goes.

But now back to our story.

Most of the drivers, especially in the early days, were just guys ( almost all white guys)...they weren't rich and they weren't polished, and they weren't huge college athletes, just an ornery bunch of fellows. And other ordinary Americans could relate to them as they could to no other professinal athletes.

NASCAR like America has been infused with racism and sexism. No doubt about. Is it changing today? A little, but that fight still has to take place if anyone cares. Of course, you have to keep in mind that there won't be a big fight about it if there isn't really that much interest in the communities which would have to lead the fight. But whatever. When push comes to shove it is just motor racing, business, but still just a motor racing at heart.

It ain't world peace.

Anyway, to come back around to something, I just want to tell any of you who care that I'm with Donna below. Once the checkered flags wave, its drivers, crews, one is any more special than anyone else. That's the way it should NASCAR and everywhere else.

I'll only add this to her comments. NASCAR is also about drama and controversy and fans loving drivers and drivers loving fans (unlike just about any other sport really race drivers are generally good to their fans). The adrenalin is gonna flow and everyone is gonna yell at everyone else.

And that's cool with me.

Meanwhile, I'm still trying to catch up and learn how it all works having finally figured out that it ain't just cars going around in circles.

And meanwhile some of my family and friends think I've lost my mind...

The following opinion is from Donna and appears on the blog Life Is One Big Road Race.

What’s NASCAR Coming To?

Okay, I’ll preface this by saying I’ve only been into Nascar for a little over three years now. I’m not as knowledgeable as those who have been fans longer, and I still learn more about it weekly. But, it doesn’t take a moron to see that something’s wrong after this past weekend’s race at Richmond. And this is where I may surprise a few people — I am not talking about Kyle Busch.

Well, wait, maybe I am, in a way, in the sense that he’s getting the short end of the stick here in a big way. My point is that if anyone who gets into a wreck with Little E is black-balled, and the fans all have to stand and extend their middle finger (IQ anyone? Or their biggest appendage?), there’s something wrong. And when NASCAR commentators like Jimmy Spencer take up the cause to bash the other drive *solely because it was Little E that he hit,* I almost want to turn the channel.

I love NASCAR. I am a diehard Jamie McMurray fan, whether or not he’s a major winner, and I love being at the races. I can quote stats, I know the tracks, and we travel to several every year. For us, it’s a family interest, and if we’re not at the track, we’re at home watching it on the big screen, Bose cranked, buffet in the kitchen, and friends yelling at the TV with us. But I don’t love this crap that’s happening right now. I’m really disappointed, though it won’t get me anywhere. I’m one of “those” people, the ones that aren’t fans of Little E. Really, there are some of us out here. If there weren’t, what would be the point of racing? Why not just hand Little E the championship and call it a season?

Oh, that’s right…Little E hasn’t won in over two years. Eh, maybe he would have won this past weekend if he’d not come down into Kyle while Kyle was coming up and racing him hard (isn’t that racing? had it been anyone else, would we be hearing this trash talk now?) and maybe not. Clint Bowyer was doing a pretty good job of running away with the lead, and I doubt Little E would have caught him.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not a Kyle fan. He’s got some serious maturing to do. He’ll do anything to win, and I joke that he’d wreck his own mother if she was on that track if it got him the win, though maybe that’s not far off the mark. But he’s a good driver, and he’s got a lot of wins as testimony. Does he deserve the win any less than Little E? Or did we want everyone to just pull over so Little E could finally cross that finish line first? Anyway, I digress…Kyle needs to get some fear and respect growing there, but I don’t think any of that had anything to do with Little E’s wreck this past weekend, and I think Little E fans (not all, but many) are looking for someone to blame rather than just throwing out that “that’s racing, boys” phrase that we hear after most wrecks, and what we’d hear applied if it was the other way around.

Long story short — Little E’s one of 43 drivers out there. If a driver doesn’t want to get hit, then he’d best get in the lead way away from everyone else or suck up to the fact that he’s not immune. If we fans are supposed to laud him as some newly found NASCAR idol, one to be avoided on the track just because his daddy was a good driver, or just because he needs a win, no thanks, I’ll turn over my NASCAR pin now.

Let’s back to racing. They’re all drivers, most of them good, and most deserving of a win. Keep your middle fingers back around your beer where they belong, and stop making the sport about one person…who just happens to not have won in a very, very long time.


Here is one for you.

Premier Dalton McGuinty of Ontario is trying today to defend his government's invite-only consultations on a new poverty strategy after members of the public were thrown out of the first meeting held yesterday in Cobourg. The people thrown out were people living in poverty.

The Peterborough Examiner reports the lack of public access resulted in shouts of anger by former Peterborough New Democratic Party (NDP) MPP Jenny Carter and members of the public, some of whom were pushed from the building by security.

The protesters greeted Children and Youth Services Minister Deb Matthews with shouts of "shame" and "we want 40 per cent" upon her arrival.

The group of anti-poverty activists, many from the Peterborough Coalition Against Poverty (PCAP), demanded Matthews allow them into the session.

"Are you afraid to hear from the rest of us, because then you might have to do something about the demands we're making?" said Mary-Jo Nadeau.

Can't have poor people commenting on poverty, for God's sake.

Part of the government's re-election platform was to reduce poverty by 25 per cent in the next five years, and "getting firsthand feedback" across the province. Firsthand, but from whom, Mr. Premier?

McGuinty says the government wants to meet with selected groups behind closed doors to hear their ideas for dealing with poverty.

That sound a little odd to me. Secret meetings to discuss poverty, uh, maybe we're not supposed to know there is poverty or something. Maybe the idea is to keep it from the some 1.3 million Ontarians living in poverty.

"They don't want low-income people publicly confronting the minister (saying): `No one can live on Ontario Works,'" NDP Leader Howard Hampton told reporters yesterday.

"They don't want to hear low-income people say: `You need to raise the minimum wage higher.'"
NDP Poverty critic Michael Prue said, “The McGuinty government pays lip service to poverty and doesn’t want to hear from those who are struggling. This government’s so-called poverty consultations are not only about shortchanging the most vulnerable, they’re about muzzling them too."

“Dalton McGuinty refuses to immediately end the clawback of the national child benefit, won’t commit to an immediate minimum wage increase that will lift hard working Ontarians out of poverty, and leaves those waiting for affordable housing languishing on a wait-list.”

“I can’t believe that on the first day of these so-called public consultations, not only have the McGuinty Liberals refused members of the public access into the meetings, they were throwing them out. The government’s behaviour is appalling and shameful!” stated Prue.

Deborah O'Connor, Northumberland Coalition Against Poverty commenting succinctly recently about these poverty strategy sessions said, "My message to the province is to quit playing around and get to work, now. Any poor person in Ontario can tell the government what poverty is in about two minutes. It's not rocket science; it's basic common sense."

The following is from Northumberland Today (Ontario).

People living in poverty protest exclusion from anti-poverty meeting in Cobourg

Women with their mouths taped shut and the word “silence” written across them protested outside a provincial anti-poverty roundtable meeting held in Cobourg today.

They were expressing opposition to being shut out of a meeting focusing on a problem they are actually living. Several protesters explained this after removing their tape to express their dissatisfaction to Children and Youth Services Minister Deb Matthews who is holding the regional meeting. Her mandate is to gain information about poverty and create a new poverty reduction strategy by year’s end.

The very people who should be there are being shut out, said Christine Watts who described herself as receiving some financial assistance, working part time and still living in poverty.

People struggling with limited resources and the existing system can be resources to those trying to fix it, she suggested.

“But I don’t think peacefully (expressed) ideas are given any respect.” Ms. Watts said.

At first Minister Matthews explained to protesters that this is just one of a series of meetings and ways people can tell the stories she says she needs to hear. Riding MPPs will be holding other meetings, she said. Then the Minister invited a few of the small group to attend the meeting set to begin inside the Best Western Cobourg Inn and Convention Centre. After harsh words from NDP critic and Beaches East MPP Michael Prue about keeping the poor out of the meeting, as well as himself, Ms. Matthews invited any of those gathered outside the Best Western Convention Centre to join in the fact-gathering meeting.

Several people did, including Deb O’Connor who works for the Northumberland Legal Clinic and one or two of the protesters. Before that, however, she urged the Minister to quit studying the problem and increase financial assistance to those living in poverty.

“The poor can’t wait anymore. They need the rates increased now,” Ms. O’Connor said.

Monday, May 05, 2008


Brave young Sahrawis took to the streets of El-Ayoune in the occupied Western Sahara to protest that occupation by Morocco. El-Ayoune is the largest city in the occupied territory with over 100,000 citizens. A whole s--t load of those folks are recent colonizers from Morocco.

As the Sahrawi in El-Ayoune were marching so were their brothers and sisters in France. More than 300 Saharawi workers participated in a rally in Paris to "reaffirm their will to continue the struggle for freedom and independence under the leadership of POLISARIO Front", which will celebrate its 35th anniversary in May the 20.

Sahara Watch meanwhile reports, "Peter Van Walsum, personal envoy of the UN Secretary-General to the festering, nearly 33-year-old conflict in Western Sahara, dropped the diplomatic equivalent of a nuclear bomb on international legality this week. The problem is, no one seemed to notice."

In the lead-up to the Security Council’s now ritual extension of the Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) at the end of April, Van Walsum, whose credibility is supposed to rest on his impartiality, said that ‘an independent Western Sahara was not a realistic proposition’.
Since the U.N.brokered 1991 ceasefire between Morocco and the Polisario Front, "realism" has become associated with Morocco's insistence that full independence for the territory is not possible. Morocco believes the final agreement should focus only on autonomy under Moroccan authority, which it says is the only realistic way to resolve the dispute.

Frank Ruddy, who previously served as deputy chairman of the U.N. Peacekeeping Referendum for Western Sahara, told World Politics Review that Morocco's "latest autonomy plan is a joke" and would grant the Sahrawi people "autonomy in everything, except everything that counts."

But that sort of things doesn't seem to matter to the UN Security Council.

Following Van Walsum’s dropping of the R-bomb (for realism) the US along with France and the UK took things a step further and immediately opposed requests to include human rights in the Council's resolution on Western Sahara. The U.N. Security Council then passed a resolution calling for "realism" in Western Sahara in what diplomats saw as a boost for Morocco in its dispute with the Polisario independence movement.

The council passed the resolution unanimously after several hours of haggling over the details and despite strong objections by South Africa, Panama and Costa Rica to language they said implied support for Morocco in the dispute. In the end, those countries caved under pressure from France and the United States.

The Council's president at the time, South African Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo, objected to what he perceived as powerful countries' bias toward Morocco in the dispute.

Kumalo complained that the resolution drafted by France, Russia, Spain, Britain and the United States omitted any reference to human rights, a sensitive subject for Morocco. He said such an omission was a case of double standards.

Kumalo pointed out the obvious farther reaching aspect of the resolution. He said the reference to realism could set a precedent in other conflicts, such as that between Israelis and Palestinians, that the principle "might is right" would hold sway.

Still he voted for the resolution.

The following is from The Sahrawi Association of Victims of Grave Human Rights Violations Committed by the Moroccan State.

Three young Sahrawis detained, maltreated
5 May 2008

On the occasion of the celebration of the International Workers’ Day, 1st May 2008, in El-Ayoune, Sahrawi citizens took part in workers marches organized on this occasion. The Sahrawi participating in these marches denounced the social and economic conditions of the Sahrawi people and called for respect of right to self-determination of the Sahrawi people as they have demanded the immediate release of Sahrawi political prisoners in different jails of Morocco.

The security forces responded to the demands of protesters by arresting young Sahrawis: Mr. Najem ELALLAWI (21 years), Mr. Mohamed ELMEHDI (18 years), Mr. SABBAR (17 years), Mr. Said HADDAD (20 years and disabled) and Miss. Fatima Laaziza BELGASM (16 years). These five young Sahrawis claim to have been ill-treated at the place of the demonstrations by police officers in plain clothes under the orders of the officer Mr. Aziz ANNOUCHE, known by the nickname ‘Touhima’. Miss. Fatima BELGASM, according to her testimony, was taken to hospital ‘Belmehdi’ in El-Ayoune, where a nurse has injected an unknown product with large syringe in her feet.

Following, the testimony of Mss. Fatima Laaziza Belgasm:

"After my participation in the march of 1st May, during which national slogans were shouted, and specifically around 12: 30 GMT, the torturer Aziz ‘Touhima’ arrested me with a group of police officers in plain clothes . After they have beaten me and kicking me on different parts of my body, I lost consciousness and I fell on the ground because of torture. I was taken to hospital ‘Belmehdi’ and I was put in a room alone. After a few minutes a nurse came in with police officers in plain clothes and began to torture me with a savage way, under orders of police officers, with a large syringe stinging me more than thirty times under my feet. The nurse and police officers continued to torture me physically and psychologically while my family was forbidden to enter the hospital for more than three hours."