Saturday, December 26, 2009

Jeff Fuers Interview

First interview with eco warrior Jeff Fuers since his release after over nine years in prison.

The following is from Democracy Now.

EXCLUSIVE: Environmental Activist Jeff “Free” Luers Speaks Out in First Interview After 9.5 Years Behind Bars


In June 2001, Jeff “Free” Luers was sentenced to twenty-three years and eight months in prison. His crime? Setting fire to three vehicles in a car dealership to protest global warming. No one was hurt in the fire. In 2007, the Oregon Court of Appeals overturned Jeff’s sentence and reduced it to ten years. Last week, on December 16th, Jeff Luers walked out of prison a free man. In a Democracy Now! global broadcast exclusive, Jeff Luers speaks out in his first interview since his release. We also speak with his attorney, Lauren Regan, executive director of the Civil Liberties Defense Center. [includes rush transcript]

AMY GOODMAN: After serving nine-and-a-half years in prison, environmental activist Jeffrey Luers is finally free. In June of 2001, Jeff Luers, then a twenty-one-year-old environmental activist, was sentenced to twenty-two years and eight months in prison. His crime? Setting fire to three light trucks at a Chevrolet dealership in Eugene, Oregon.

He said he committed the act to raise awareness about global warming. The fire was put out with a regular fire extinguisher. No one was hurt. The damage to the cars totaled something like $30,000, $40,000. The cars were repaired and eventually sold.

Jeff and his co-defendant, Craig “Critter” Marshall, were arrested minutes after the fire was reported. By the time of Jeff’s trial a year later, he was facing thirteen charges and a hundred years in prison. In 2001, former Lane County Circuit Judge Lyle Velure sentenced Jeff to twenty-two years and eight months in prison with no possibility of parole. Craig Marshall took a plea deal and served four-and-a-half years behind bars.

Jeff Luer’s case became known around the country and around the world. Amnesty International and the Eugene Human Rights Commission questioned whether his sentence was politically motivated.

In 2007, the Oregon Court of Appeals overturned Jeff’s sentence and reduced it to ten years. Last week, on December 16th, Jeff Luers walked out of prison a free man.

Just before today’s broadcast, we spoke with Jeff Luers in a Democracy Now! global broadcast exclusive. I spoke to him in Eugene, Oregon.

    AMY GOODMAN: Jeff, welcome to Democracy Now! I wanted to start by asking you how it feels to be free.

    JEFF LUERS: It’s a bit of an adjustment, going from being stuck in a small cage to having run of the entire world at the moment. It’s nice.

    AMY GOODMAN: Your reflections right now? I mean, how long have you been out at this point?

    JEFF LUERS: A week.

    AMY GOODMAN: And what have you been able to do in this week?

    JEFF LUERS: I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with my family, friends that I haven’t seen in a really long time. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to get out into the forest and start hiking again and just reconnecting with all the experiences that I haven’t had for nine-and-a-half years.

    AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go back in time for people who aren’t familiar with your case. Talk about what landed you in jail, your original sentence being more than twenty-two years.

    JEFF LUERS: Well, in June 2000, I and my co-defendant Craig Marshall set fire to three trucks at Romania Chevrolet. That resulted in my incarceration and conviction for arson, resulting in twenty-two years and eight months in prison.

    AMY GOODMAN: He plea-bargained and served something like four-and-a-half years?

    JEFF LUERS: Yeah, he was offered a non-cooperation deal to take five years, and he was released after four and a half.

    AMY GOODMAN: Why didn’t you do the same? Why didn’t you plea-bargain? You weren’t contesting what happened at the—that you had set fire to these three—would you call them SUVs?

    JEFF LUERS: They were actually light trucks. But the difference is, is Craig’s offer was for conspiracy. They wanted me to plead guilty to intending to cause physical harm to another person. And for years, the FBI had been trying to show that environmental activists were terrorists, and I didn’t want to give them a victory by pleading to intent to harm someone. I chose to fight that all the way.

    AMY GOODMAN: And you went before a non—you chose a non-jury trial?

    JEFF LUERS: Yes. There was an arson at the same dealership days before my trial was set to begin, and on the advice of my attorney, we decided that that would bias a jury of my peers against me too much to take the chance.

    AMY GOODMAN: On reflection, do you think you should have plea-bargained?

    JEFF LUERS: No, I honestly would have ended up serving the same amount of time. My final plea bargain was for ten years. And I feel that taking it to trial and serving the time that I did has been more beneficial to my struggle and my personal life.

    AMY GOODMAN: What is that struggle, Jeff?

    JEFF LUERS: Well, it’s slightly changed over the years, as the politics and recognition of climate change and global warming have changed. But I was heavily active in forest defense in the late ’90s and in 2000, and that carried over into wanting to protect the larger environment and bring attention to global warming and climate change at a time when there wasn’t much news about it, and it wasn’t really in the public spectrum.

    AMY GOODMAN: When you talk about forest defense, explain what you did in the late ‘90s and in 2000. Explain, for example, tree sitting.

    JEFF LUERS: Yeah, I and a small group of friends helped establish the Fall Creek tree sit just outside of Eugene, Oregon in 1998, and it grew into one of the longest tree sitting campaigns that the United States has seen, ultimately resulted in saving ninety-six acres of old-growth forest. That campaign was really instrumental in building an environmental movement here in the Northwest.

    AMY GOODMAN: You actually sit in the trees? Explain what a tree sit is, for people outside the Northwest.

    JEFF LUERS: Basically, it’s a small piece of plywood suspended through ropes at the top of a tree. They tend to be several hundred feet high, connected by ropes to other tree sits, so that you never have to touch the ground in order to get around or defend the forest. And you live there twenty-four/seven. Sometimes some campaigns will have a single sitter that will stay throughout, such as someone like Julia Butterfly. Other campaigns will cycle their sitters so there’s constantly someone fresh, able to move around and defend the forest.

    AMY GOODMAN: So how did you go from tree sitting to setting fire to these light trucks at the car dealership?

    JEFF LUERS: I was active in civil disobedience and direct action for many years and didn’t see it being as fruitful as I felt that it should be. Through my encounters with law enforcement, I saw that there was a lot of deceit and deception in the manner in which they dealt with protesters and sweeping aside any type of redress—excuse me, redress of grievance. And ultimately, I decided that it was better to make a media spectacle to get my message across and draw attention to issues that I felt were incredibly important and affect every human being on this planet.

    AMY GOODMAN: And so, why did you target this car dealership? What exactly did it mean to you?

    JEFF LUERS: It was two-fold. Partially, I was attempting to bring attention to—

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Jeffrey Luers, having a little problem with the sound there. We’re going to come back to this interview in a minute. Again, Jeffrey Luers was released on December 16th after almost ten years in prison. His crime? Setting fire to three light trucks at a car dealership in Eugene, Oregon.

This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. We’ll be back in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: David Rovics singing “23 Years”—this is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report—a song about Jeffrey Luers, our guest today in this global exclusive. Jeffrey Luers just returned—just was released from prison on December 16th after serving nine-and-a-half years there. We interviewed him just before this broadcast. Let’s return to the interview.

    JEFF LUERS: …building an environmental movement here in the Northwest.

    AMY GOODMAN: You actually sit in the trees? Explain what a tree sit is, for people outside the Northwest.

    JEFF LUERS: Basically, it’s a small piece of plywood suspended through ropes at the top of a tree. They tend to be several hundred feet high, connected by ropes to other tree sits, so that you never have to touch the ground in order to get around or defend the forest. And you live there twenty-four/seven. Sometimes some campaigns will have a single sitter that will stay throughout, such as someone like Julia Butterfly. Other campaigns will cycle their sitters so there’s constantly someone fresh, able to move around and defend the forest.

    AMY GOODMAN: So how did you go from tree sitting to setting fire to these light trucks at the car dealership?

    JEFF LUERS: I was active in civil disobedience and direct action for many years and didn’t see it being as fruitful as I felt that it should be. Through my encounters with law enforcement, I saw that there was a lot of deceit and deception in the manner in which they dealt with protesters and sweeping aside any type of redress—excuse me, redress of grievance. And ultimately, I decided that it was better to make a media spectacle to get my message across and draw attention to issues that I felt were incredibly important and affect every human being on this planet.

    AMY GOODMAN: And so, why did you target this car dealership? What exactly did it mean to you?

    JEFF LUERS: It was two-fold. Partially, I was attempting to bring attention to the US’s foreign policy in dealing with dictatorships and tyrannical governments like Saudi Arabia, but also the fact that the US—or the US car fleet is responsible for the second highest amount of greenhouse gas emissions.

    AMY GOODMAN: And so, talk about that process, though, of recognizing that and then deciding to engage in property destruction and how you actually carried it out, how you were caught. And then I’d like to ask about your reflections on it now.

    JEFF LUERS: We chose the car dealership partially due to location. It was the first action that I had done of that scale. And quite honestly, it was an easy place to target. It also was catering to commercial fleets rather than to the regular population. So we chose it for those reasons.

    AMY GOODMAN: And how did you set them afire?

    JEFF LUERS: I’m not going to talk about that.

    AMY GOODMAN: But you have accepted that, or you’ve admitted that, yes, you did. And the damage was—

    JEFF LUERS: Yes.

    AMY GOODMAN: How much damage was done to these three cars, the trucks?

    JEFF LUERS: The damage, I believe, came to a grand total of about $28,000.

    AMY GOODMAN: And they were actually able to resell the trucks after?

    JEFF LUERS: They resold—repaired and resold two of them, and one was destroyed.

    AMY GOODMAN: How did you get caught?

    JEFF LUERS: We were under surveillance by a counterterrorist unit that was working, I believe, with the Joint Terrorist Task Force in Eugene.

    AMY GOODMAN: Did you have any idea at the time that you were being followed? And where had they followed you from?

    JEFF LUERS: According to testimony by the detectives involved, they picked me up at a warehouse in which I was renting and followed us using three different vehicles and a roving tail all the way to the Romania dealership.

    AMY GOODMAN: Did they know you were going to be doing this, or were they just following you?

    JEFF LUERS: According to them, they were following me, looking to see if I would lead them to a anarchist party that was happening that night.

    AMY GOODMAN: And what did they charge you with? What were you ultimately convicted of?

    JEFF LUERS: Ultimately, I was convicted of Arson I, attempted Arson I, and possession and manufacture of a destructive device.

    AMY GOODMAN: So, Arson I, you got twenty-two-and-a-half years, you were originally sentenced. That was overturned a few years ago.

    JEFF LUERS: Yes.

    AMY GOODMAN: But how does that compare to murder, to rape, to causing people physical harm?

    JEFF LUERS: Murder in the state of Oregon is punishable by twenty-five years to life. Most rape sentences are less than ninety months. The disproportionate sentence that I received was far out of line with what is standardly given to people convicted of arson.

    AMY GOODMAN: How did you feel when the judge issued the sentence?

    JEFF LUERS: Not really very surprised. I believed that he was going to come down on me as hard as he could, and he did. The DA at the time wanted blood. She wanted to make an example, that you cannot be a radical environmental activist in this country and not suffer severe consequences.

    AMY GOODMAN: What are your thoughts today on what you did? Would you do it again?

    JEFF LUERS: Given all that I know, I would do it again. I think that the things that I’ve experienced and the ability for me to continue my activism from prison and reach out to different media organizations and continue the debate on climate change has added to the fact that we’re now recognizing the danger that climate change and global warming pose.

    AMY GOODMAN: I mean, there’s an irony here, Jeff Luers, in you being released right in the midst of the largest global warming summit the world has ever seen in Copenhagen, not that the powers that be came out with a binding agreement, but that that has been the focus of the last two weeks now of the world community. Your thoughts on that?

    JEFF LUERS: Well, it was kind of summed up when I was resentenced. The first time that I was sentenced, the judge pretty much called me an evil, despicable man. And the second time that I was sentenced, the judge called me a veteran of an ugly campaign and elder statesman of my cause. The public’s view on global warming has changed so much that people who strive to create action on it are no longer fanatics.

    AMY GOODMAN: Jeff, how did prison change you? What was it like in prison? You were in a maximum-security prison for how long?

    JEFF LUERS: I was in a maximum security for six years.

    AMY GOODMAN: Which prison?

    JEFF LUERS: Oregon State Penitentiary.

    AMY GOODMAN: What was that experience like?

    JEFF LUERS: Difficult. You see that violence becomes a way of life. I’ve seen people murdered, and that’s something that I’m going to carry with me for the rest of my life.

    AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean you’ve seen people murdered?

    JEFF LUERS: I mean I’ve seen people murdered in prison. I’ve seen people stabbed. I’ve seen them beaten with locks and strangled to death. I had a man die six feet in front of me.

    AMY GOODMAN: And who were they being killed by? Was it guards? Was it other prisoners?

    JEFF LUERS: No, it was other prisoners. Sometimes it was gang-related. Sometimes it was just personal vendettas.

    AMY GOODMAN: How did you protect yourself?

    JEFF LUERS: I just stayed who I am. I never denied any of my beliefs, and I stood for the same things that I stood for in prison. And unfortunately, when necessary, I fought for those things.

    AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean you fought for those things?

    JEFF LUERS: Physical violence. I defended myself.

    AMY GOODMAN: Do you have thoughts about the prison system today, having lived through it, having survived it, on how the present system works in this country?

    JEFF LUERS: I think it’s a broken system. We take our troubled people, and we throw them away with no solution, and we do not offer them a way to improve their livelihood. In the ten years that I was in prison, there was no rehabilitation offered. There’s no skill sets that they offer to teach you. The closest that comes is they offer some people a GED. But if you don’t meet certain requirements, then you’re restricted from even that. When I first went to prison, I attempted to take college correspondence courses, and I was told, quite simply, that I had too much time, and so, therefore, I wouldn’t be allowed to do anything.

    AMY GOODMAN: So, were you ever able to?

    JEFF LUERS: In my last year, I was able to take college classes, finally.

    AMY GOODMAN: Jeff Luers, explain what happened when the court overturned your sentence. Explain the rationale and what they said.

    JEFF LUERS: My original conviction and sentence gave me three sentences for the same fire. The court of appeals decided that there was only one fire, there could only be one punishment, and that all of those charges had to merge into one conviction and one sentence.

    AMY GOODMAN: Were you surprised that the system worked in your favor that time?

    JEFF LUERS: I wasn’t surprised that the court of appeals agreed with me. The legal error was quite grievous. What I was surprised about is how greatly my sentence was reduced.

    AMY GOODMAN: And how did that shift your—the way you thought, your captivity, knowing you were going from twenty-two to less than ten years?

    JEFF LUERS: It’s a huge culture shock. I imagine it’s probably hard for people at home to imagine, but I lived in a maximum-security prison in a tiny cell, and basically overnight, I went from having experienced nothing but that for six years to living in a dorm with eighty people. And it was hard. It was a difficult adjustment going from a mentality of constantly watching your back and being ready to fight at every second to being around so many people and trying not to be freaked out by that.

    AMY GOODMAN: There has been a very active support group for you over the years that you’ve been in prison. What did that mean to you inside, Jeff Luers?

    JEFF LUERS: It meant everything. I think that people cannot at all underestimate how important letters and emotional support are. The campaign for my release, without a doubt, helped me get out of prison, but it’s the letters that helped me get through prison.

    AMY GOODMAN: And what was it like, as you describe being free for this last week and going into nature, that you had been trying to defend before you went to prison for years? What was that feeling to go from behind bars to the wild?

    JEFF LUERS: It’s really surreal. It took several days for me to, like, accept that it was finally over, that I could wake up in the morning and go outside and be free. The first hike that I went on, everything just seemed like stuck in time, until at a certain point it just hit me I was back where I belonged.

    AMY GOODMAN: What are the conditions of your release now?

    JEFF LUERS: They’re the pretty standard parole package. I cannot commit crime or possess any drugs. I have to stay away from my co-defendant. And I’m, ironically enough, not allowed to possess a bomb.

    AMY GOODMAN: What do you say “ironically enough”?

    JEFF LUERS: Well, it’s against the law to possess a bomb, to begin with, but they specified that in my parole conditions.

    AMY GOODMAN: And do you plan to continue to be an outspoken environmentalist? And what form will that take now?

    JEFF LUERS: I’m definitely going to continue with my environmental and social justice activism. It’s a little too early for me to be deciding what form that’s going to come in at this point. Personally, right now I’m looking forward to going back to school and just re-experiencing life again before I decide to get heavily involved in activism.

    AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to bring in your attorney, Lauren Regan. You’re the executive director of the Civil Liberties Defense Center. You have represented Jeff for a long time. Can you talk about his case in a larger context of how the authorities have dealt with, well, cases like Jeff’s, his first—this enormous sentence of twenty-two-and-a-half years, it being overturned, and how it all fits together?

    LAUREN REGAN: Well, at the time that Jeff was first sentenced, the twenty-two years and eight months that he received from the judge was the longest sentence of any environmental or animal rights activist in the United States. And as Jeff mentioned, it was clearly imposed to send a message.

    He and his co-defendant were the first people to be actually apprehended while committing an arson. There had been a few other arsons starting back in 1997 that are now referred to as part of the “Green Scare.” But those crimes had been unsolved, and law enforcement had no leads at all. When they apprehended Jeff and Craig, they thought that they had apprehended suspects in all of those other unsolved crimes. And it turned out that that was not the case at all. But they were very, very interested in information that they believed that the two had. Part of, I think, the reason that there were no plea deals for Jeff was because they really were putting the screws to him in order to cooperate and name other people. As it turns out, even in the government’s own discovery, they knowledge that Jeff probably had no information about any of those other arsons. But at the time, that was definitely part of their focus.

    And as Jeff mentioned, even in the federal system, the crime of arson normally carries about a two-year prison sentence. So the fact that this particular act of economic sabotage created very little monetary damage, but yet he, you know, got over ten times what someone who would have committed an arson for a greed purpose would have received, definitely drew the attention of the global community. Amnesty International and a number of other human rights groups, including a human rights organization in Eugene, all decried his sentence when it happened. And, of course, you know, the lawyers that surrounded him knew right away that this judge had attempted to mathematically create the longest sentence possible and attempted to impose it on him. We were just really gratified that the court of appeals took the politics out of that case and looked at the law and corrected a really grievous mistake.

    AMY GOODMAN: Let’s talk about politics, the issue of a person who is convicted, who is voicing political motives, versus someone who’s involved with a common crime. How is that dealt with, Lauren Regan?

    LAUREN REGAN: Well, under our Constitution, we have this Equal Protection Clause, which is supposed to say that like crimes are treated in a like manner. And so, whether or not you burn a house down for insurance fraud or whether you burn a building down to destroy a horse slaughterhouse facility, the law is supposed to look at those things in an equal manner and not create disparity between those two crimes.

    But particularly during the Bush administration and with the prosecution of the Green Scare cases, whether it is because the government is pandering to corporate dominance or whether or not the government really does feel that radical activism is this huge threat to them, there have been a number of cases where activists have received extremely long sentences.

    The case of Eric McDavid, a young man who was basically entrapped by an eighteen-year-old woman who was paid by the FBI to infiltrate him and his friends—they were prosecuted for thought crimes. There were no accusations that they burned anything down or caused any damage to anything. But as a result of a conspiracy conviction, a judge imposed twenty-two years on that young man. His case is currently on appeal. And unfortunately, in recent years, we’ve seen several similar cases, where the courts have imposed two decades or more on radical environmental activists as a result of engaging in economic sabotage.

    And the courts have been using new tools that were created via the PATRIOT Act. They’ve also started using old laws in very different ways, things such as terrorist enhancements, which allow for excessive punishment, very harsh incarceration once the people are in prison. And as with the case of Daniel McGowan, we have now seen radical activists sent to literally terrorist facilities, where their conditions are basically entirely in segregation. They have very little—even the normal rights that prisoners have are stripped away from people who are sent to these terrorist facilities.

    AMY GOODMAN: This idea of green being the new red, do you subscribe to this, Lauren Regan?

    LAUREN REGAN: Definitely. I think that the Green Scare and the prosecutions that we’ve seen are our generation’s equivalent of the Red Scare. We’re seeing government rampages, using grand juries in abusive ways.

    If the Bush administration did one thing correctly, it was to manipulate mainstream media and really use words in order to brand and malign people in ways that we hadn’t seen in a long time, probably since the ’50s. And, you know, it really is sort of a war of ideology in a lot of ways. If the government wants to brand you as a terrorist based on your beliefs or based on your ethical principles, there’s really no way for you to defend yourself of that. And it definitely—you know, from the beginning of the Green Scare, the government has really taken this campaign to the media.

    On the first day that people were arrested almost four years ago, the then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales conducted a national press conference, where he called these defendants, who were innocent until proven guilty, but he labeled them as eco-terrorists on national media, day one. And from that time, it’s been really a challenge for us.

    I think most mainstream humans see a difference between flying an plane into a building or burning down a horse barn to stop wild mustang slaughter. But the government, I think in defense of the corporations that pay them lots of money and have lots of lobbyists, definitely see that as a significant threat to their profit-making abilities.

    AMY GOODMAN: The setting of the fire of the light trucks in Eugene, Jeff, that happened right before September 11th. How did you feel being called a terrorist for what you had done, a domestic terrorist?

    JEFF LUERS: It happened about a year before September 11th. And it was new. It was going from being an activist or a tree hugger and a variety of other names that I’ve been called and are laughable to suddenly being public enemy number one. And it’s really interesting to see that you can have a crime that, if anyone else would do it, is just that, it’s a crime, but if you have some type of political thought behind it or some type of activist motivation, suddenly it’s no longer a crime, it’s an act of terrorism.

    AMY GOODMAN: Why did you decide to do this interview, Jeff?

    JEFF LUERS: Well, that’s a good question. I think that there’s people out there that want to hear my story. And for years, the only interviews that I’ve done were more about defending my belief system and pointing out the scientific facts of climate change. And this is the first interview that I’ve actually given that’s personal and about my experiences.

    And I think it’s important for people to understand that there’s several people incarcerated in the United States right now that are environmental activists that are being treated like terrorists. They’re our own people engaged in acts of illegal civil disobedience, much like the Boston Tea Party. And historically, it’s people like these that bring about positive social change. And we’re throwing them away in prison for decades.

    AMY GOODMAN: What advice would you have now, given the climate today and the level of environmental activism there is, for young environmentalists?

    JEFF LUERS: I think they need to choose their battles and struggles very carefully and look at what has happened to me and other individuals when they make decisions about things that they want to be involved in. And I think it’s really important that we learn lessons from our past and learn ways in which we can be successful without putting ourself at severe risk.

    AMY GOODMAN: The Animal Liberation Front, Environmental Liberation Front [sic] are considered the number one terrorist—domestic terrorist groups in this country. Do you consider yourself a part of the ELF, Jeff?

    JEFF LUERS: No, I think it’s important to remember that there’s thousands of people that use direct action to try to create a better world. It’s the heart and intentions of the warrior that are important, and not the label.

AMY GOODMAN: Jeffrey Luers, released from prison on December 16th after serving nine-and-a-half years in jail. In June 2001, he was sentenced to twenty-two years and eight months for burning three light trucks. We also were joined by his attorney Lauren Regan, attorney for Jeffrey Luers and executive director of the Civil Liberties Defense Center. If you’d like a copy of today’s show, you can go to our website at When I asked him about the ELF, I meant to say the Earth Liberation Front.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Got some time for an interesting read. This 68 page piece PDF (Introduction to the Apocalypse) is, well, you make think it's crackpot, you may think it's genius. I've read about half of it so far and I'm still trying to figure out what I think. Is it revolutionary, reactionary, politics, environmental, communist, anarchist, what the hell is it? It is too long to reprint here, the URL is

Thursday, December 24, 2009

They Call This A Plan?

The Senate has spoken with the voice of thousands of lobbyists. If you like private healthcare and insurance, you'll like this great new plan.

From the California Nurses Association

A Patient’s View of the Senate Christmas Healthcare Gift

By Donna Smith

So, all the great fanfare and all the king’s horses. The great and almighty U.S. Senate has spoken. I will have to buy private health insurance – forever, amen. The defective product that has left me wanting for real healthcare for all of my adult life is now a step closer to being the law of the land.

A lump of Christmas coal all polished up with sparkling rhetoric.

Here’s what the Chicago Tribune said this week, and I agree:

On Sunday, the Chicago Tribune published an exhaustive front-page analysis by Northwestern University's Medill News Service and the Center for Responsive Politics of how it was done. The main culprit: "a revolving door between Capitol Hill staffers and lobbying jobs for companies with a stake in health care legislation."

The study found that 13 former congressmen and 166 congressional staffers were actively engaged in lobbying their former colleagues on the bill. The companies they were working for -- some 338 of them -- spent $635 million on lobbying. It was money extremely well spent -- delivering a bill that, by forcing people to buy a shoddy product in a market with no real competition, enshrines into law the public subsidy of private profit.

As we approach the end of Obama's first year in office, this public subsidizing of private profit is becoming something of a habit. It is, after all, exactly what the White House did with the banks. Just as he did with insurance companies, Obama talked tough to the bankers in public, but, when push came to shove, he ended up shoving public money onto their privately held balance sheets.

This is not just bad policy, it's bad politics.

Now, back to my own thoughts as a patient:

I went broke while carrying health insurance, a disability insurance policy and a small healthcare savings account. And if I get sick under this mess of a plan, it will happen to me again. Little has changed except that millions more of my fellow citizens will join my ranks.

How does it happen to insured people under this plan? Easy. Step-by-torturous-step. Slowly. Like water-torture.

1. Buy health insurance at work or on the new exchange;

2. Avoid using insurance due to co-pays, deductibles and out-of-pocket maximum exposures – not to mention lost work time and the worry about losing one’s job in a tough economy;

3. If symptoms are noticed, treat by internet medical site suggestions and over-the-counter drugs until no other option but going to a doctor are available;

4. Attempt to make appointment with doctor but first find one who accepts both new patients and your insurance;

5. Go to doctor and pay co-pay up front before ever speaking to anyone about medical problem;

6. Sit in outer waiting room for as long as required, missing work and worrying;

7. Sit in exam room waiting for doctor for as long as required;

8. See doctor for five or six minutes, if lucky, during which time you will either be prescribed some expensive drug to fix a problem the doctor isn’t sure you have, referred to another doctor who may have a month or two wait for appointments, be directed to get some tests done you aren’t sure your insurance will allow or pay for, and do it all sitting in your underwear or less;

9. Leave medical office owing more than what you thought your insurance and co-pay advertised (and never get an explanation for how that is possible) and never sure if this experience was much different than being to a used car lot where the sales folks have assessed your financing mechanism before showing you anything at all and then only show you what fits the financing not what you need or want;

10. In the alternative, if you collapse or wait until symptoms get so severe that going for an office appointment is impossible, go to an emergency room – repeat steps five through eight – and either be admitted to the hospital if your insurance is adequate and you have any available sick-time from work (if not, beg for drugs and to be released) or go to number nine.

11. Need a dentist? Too bad. Have dental insurance? Still too bad. You might get a cleaning and some x-rays, but getting the care you may or may not need will be again totally related to your ability to pay whatever portion of the dental work is not covered (and amazingly, every penny of what dental insurance will cover will be eaten up by whatever problem you may or may not have) – in the alternative, avoid dentists or just pull teeth as they go bad;

12. When the bills roll in, try to pay some after trying to find out how you can possible owe hundreds if not thousands more than the insurance policy you have indicates is possible;

13. When the collectors call to collect all of the balances due, try to negotiate payments but endure threats of lawsuit, garnishment and worse as the collectors report back to the doctors you saw for a few moments in number eight;

14. Try to get your meds – if too costly, go without;

15. Try to get well – if you cannot, go back to work;

16. Try to act like this is all wonderful and you are grateful to have any insurance at all;

17. Get sued by a collection agency for a doctor bill or hospital bill you cannot cover;

18. Sell your house and use whatever proceeds you have to try to pay some of the debts;

19. Collectors for the doctors and hospitals are not happy if you don’t pay it all in full and up-front most of the time;

20. Feel stress, fear, anguish – but don’t gripe and don’t show it at work – buck it up, chump;

21. Sell keepsakes and anything valuable to try to stay afloat;

22. Stress, more stress. Fear to answer the phone. Friends and family fall away as they don’t want you to ask to borrow money;

23. Keep working – sick or not, keep working or you’ll lose that damn insurance if you cannot pay the premium – or you’ll be back out on the exchange trying to buy another policy that is cheaper and even worse;

24. Watch your elected officials claim victory and history as they work to make sure your kids and grandkids must suffer the same fate if they need healthcare in America;

25. Have a Merry Christmas, so says your U.S. Senate.

Don’t think this can happen to you because it hasn’t yet? Count your blessings this Christmas.

I'd really like the gift of healthcare. Medicare for all, single-payer healthcare would remove so much of this awful process. That would be a gift.

Climate Imperialism

Climate capitalism or climate imperialism, you can call it what you will, but it's what the Obama Administration has endoresed at the Copenhagen Climate Disaster. Africa, of course, is first up to pay the price.

US Reaps Trillions While Condemning Africa To Climate Catastrophe

Printer-friendly version [1]
africa boyA Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford


With humanity at risk and Africa facing “incineration,” the United States opted for “disaster capitalism” at the global climate conference, last week. “President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went to Copenhagen to end any possibility of a global agreement on greenhouse gasses that the rich nations would be bound to respect.”
Obama, US Continue To Reap Trillions and Condemn Africa To Climate Catastrophe
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
The United States went to Copenhagen intent on imposing a ‘disaster capitalism’ regime on the poor nations of the planet.”
The United States, having reaped more benefits than any other nation from the industrial warming of planet Earth, now seeks to turn the resulting global disaster to its own advantage – or, more precisely, to the advantage of the U.S.-based, amoral, world-annihilating corporate class.
In Copenhagen last week, the Obama administration destroyed any chance of averting catastrophe in Africa and the developing nations of the global South. Temperatures will be allowed to rise 2 degrees Celsius on average, which translates to three and a half degrees in the hotter latitudes. As a consequence, said Archbishop Desmond Tutu [3], Africa is the be condemned “to incineration and no modern development.”
What development does occur would be at the pleasure of the United States and Europe. President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went to Copenhagen to end any possibility of a global agreement on greenhouse gasses that the rich nations would be bound to respect. Obama administered the coup de grace to the Kyoto accords, extinguishing all hope of an international agreement that respects the rights of all nations to develop their economies within a binding framework that protects everyone’s interests. Instead, the United States imposed its own take-it-or-leave-it ultimatum: accept the inevitability of catastrophe in Africa and across the global South. And also accept that the U.S. and its corporations will dictate how the developing world will be allowed to grow its economies. Refuse, and the uppity poor countries will be cut off from the rich man’s “aid.”
While Africa burns, Washington gives up nothing in terms of binding commitments.”
This is “disaster capitalism” in its most hellish form. The term was coined by political writer Naomi Klein in 2005 [4], to describe how the International Monetary Fund induced or exploited economic disasters in the Third World and then forced poor countries to surrender their national sovereignty in order to be eligible for loans and “aid” from the rich countries. The aim was to make it impossible for poor countries to control their own economic and political destinies.
The United States went to Copenhagen intent on imposing a “disaster capitalism” regime on the poor nations of the planet. While Africa burns, Washington gives up nothing in terms of binding commitments. Instead, the U.S. offers – but does not guarantee, or even promise – to create a special fund, possibly eventually amounting to $100 billion, from which “aid” will be doled out. The rich nations will determine who gets a piece of the global warming aid pie, and under what terms. The Americans insist that some of the money will come from private sources, rich corporations that are answerable to no one but their own greedy selves – which means western businessmen will determine how Africa and the global South will be allowed to develop under conditions of climate change. The U.S. reserves the right to make separate deals with favored nations, that is, countries whose leaders surrender their national destiny to the developmental wishes of the West.
Disaster capitalism holds the most vulnerable of the world’s people hostage to imperial blackmail at the hour of the planet’s greatest peril. It is a crime against humanity, and most grievously, a crime against Africa. How ironic that the chief perpetrator of the crime is himself a son of Africa.
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to [5].
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [6].

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Copenhagen: They're Trying to Sell Us the Left Over Slop

Copenhagen Non Treaty: A pox on all their houses...and unfortunately ours, too.

The following is from Monthly Review

Curing Post-Copenhagen Hangover
by Patrick Bond

In Copenhagen, the world's richest leaders continued their fiery fossil fuel party last Friday night, ignoring requests of global village neighbors to please chill out.

Instead of halting the hedonism, Barack Obama and the Euro elites cracked open the mansion door to add a few nouveau riche guests: South Africa's Jacob Zuma, China's Wen Jiabao (reportedly the most obnoxious of the lot), Brazil's Lula Inacio da Silva, and India's Manmohan Singh. By Saturday morning, still punch-drunk with power over the planet, these wild and crazy party animals had stumbled back onto their jets and headed home.

The rest of us now have a killer hangover, because on behalf mainly of white capitalists (who are having the most fun of all), the world's rulers stuck the poor and future generations with vast clean-up charges -- and worse: certain death for millions.

The 770 parts per million of carbon in the atmosphere envisaged in the Copenhagen Accord signatories' promised 15% emissions cuts from 1990 levels by 2020 -- which in reality could be a 10% increase once carbon trading and offset loopholes are factored in -- will cook the planet, say scientists, with nine out of ten African peasants losing their livelihood.

The most reckless man at the party, of course, was the normally urbane, Ivy League-educated lawyer who, a year ago, we hoped might behave with the dignity and compassion behooving the son of a leading Kenyan intellectual. But in Obama's refusal to lead the North to make 45% emissions cuts and offer payment of the $400 billion annual climate debt owed to Third World victims by 2020, Obama trashed not only Africa but also the host institution, according to leader Bill McKibben: "He blew up the United Nations."

Economist Jeffrey Sachs charged Obama with abandoning "the UN framework, because it was proving nettlesome to US power and domestic politics. Obama's decision to declare a phony negotiating victory undermines the UN process by signaling that rich countries will do what they want and must no longer listen to the 'pesky' concerns of many smaller and poorer countries."

The Accord is "insincere, inconsistent, and unconvincing," Sachs continued, "unlikely to accomplish anything real. It is non-binding and will probably strengthen the forces of opposition to emissions reductions." Moreover, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton's "announcements about money a decade from now are mostly empty words. They do not bind the rich countries at all."

As Naomi Klein summed up, the Accord is "nothing more than a grubby pact between the world's biggest emitters: I'll pretend that you are doing something about climate change if you pretend that I am too. Deal? Deal."

A handful of technocrats must also shoulder blame, including two key South African officials. A week earlier, before the politicians arrived, Pretoria bureaucrats Joanne Yawitch and Alf Wills were already criticized by leading Third World negotiator Lumumba Di-Aping for dividing the South's main negotiating group, the G77. Yawitch then forced a humiliating apology from Di-Aping for his frank talk (to an African civil society caucus) about her treachery. On Friday night, Zuma did exactly what she had denied was underway: he destroyed the unity of Africa and the G77.

The Pretoria team went to Copenhagen empowered by endorsements from the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace -- alongside gullible climate journalists -- who took at face value a vaguely promised 34% emissions cut below anticipated 2020 levels, even though absolute decline would only begin after 2030. Tristen Taylor of Earthlife Africa begged Pretoria for details and, after two weeks of delays, learned Yawitch's estimates were from a "Growth Without Constraint" (GWC) scenario.

According to Taylor, "GWC is fantasy, essentially an academic exercise to see how much carbon South Africa would produce given unlimited resources and cheap energy prices." Officials had already conceded GWC was "neither robust nor plausible" eighteen months ago, leading Taylor to conclude, "The SA government has pulled a public relations stunt." WWF and Greenpeace owe an explanation for their incompetence.

Then came Friday, which George Monbiot compared to the 1884-85 Berlin negotiations known as the "Scramble for Africa," which divided and conquered the continent. The African Union was twisted and U-turned to support Zuma's capitulation by the man appointed its climate leader, Meles Zenawi. In September, the Ethiopian dictator claimed, "If needs be we are prepared to walk out of any negotiations that threatens to be another rape of our continent."

But he didn't walk out -- he walked off his plane in Paris on the way to Copenhagen, into the arms of Nicolas Sarkozy. The fateful side deal, according to Mithika Mwenda of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), is "undermining the bold positions of our negotiators and ministers represented here, and threatening the very future of Africa."

Not only did Zuma and Zenawi surrender on emissions cuts, but also on demanding full payment of the North's climate debt to the South. "Meles wants to sell out the lives and hopes of Africans for a pittance,' said Mwenda. "Every other African country has committed to policy based on the science."

Clinton and the US team refused to acknowledge the North's vast climate debt, owed not only for climate damage but for excessive use of environmental space. Huffed Washington's chief climate negotiator, Todd Stern, "the sense of guilt or culpability or reparations -- I just categorically reject that."

Bolivian ambassador to the United Nations Pablo Solon replied, "Admitting responsibility for the climate crisis without taking necessary actions to address it is like someone burning your house and then refusing to pay for it. . . . We are not assigning guilt, merely responsibility. As they say in the US, if you break it, you buy it."

Stern's aversion to "culpability" translates into rejection of his own government's straightforward "polluter pays" principle as well as the foundational concepts of the Superfund, responsible for cleaning toxic waste dumps across the US.

Worse, if the Copenhagen Accord is widely endorsed by February 1, much of the promised funding would flow via notoriously corrupt Clean Development Mechanism projects which often do great damage in local settings. According to the Accord, "We decide to pursue opportunities to use markets to enhance the cost-effectiveness of and to promote mitigations actions."

But carbon markets continue failing, as long predicted by the Durban Group for Climate Justice and more recently by The Story of Cap & Trade. Last Thursday, the European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme anticipated the feeble Copenhagen outcome -- including a defunct forest offsets deal -- by dropping 5%. The benchmark price is just 13.66 euros, less than half the peak of mid-2008, far lower than required to attract renewable energy investments.

According to European Climate Exchange director Patrick Birley, "We were hoping that a deal in Copenhagen would open up new opportunities for emissions trading. That expectation has now faded."

This leaves South Africa and the others as accomplices to an historic climate crime that cannot be covered up. The claim that post-apartheid Pretoria only looks after itself has often been made elsewhere on the continent. For example, former president Thabo Mbeki's nickname at the World Economic Forum's mid-2003 meeting in Mozambique was "the George Bush of Africa," as the Sunday Times reported.

Climate damage to Africa will include much more rapid desertification, more floods and droughts, worse water shortages, increased starvation, floods of climate refugees jamming shanty-packed megalopolises, and the spread of malarial and other diseases. Ironically, Obama's and Zuma's own rural relatives in Kenya and KwaZulu-Natal will be amongst the first victims of the Accord.

Did Zuma know what he was doing, acting in Copenhagen on behalf of major mining/metals corporations, which keep SA's ruling party lubricated with cash, "black economic empowerment" deals and jobs for cronies, and which need higher SA carbon emissions so as to continue receiving the world's cheapest electricity, and which then export their profits to London and Melbourne?

Perhaps, but on the other hand, two other explanations -- ignorance and cowardice -- were, eight years ago, Zuma's plausible defenses for promoting AIDS denialism in 2000. He helped Mbeki during the period in which 330,000 South Africans died due to Pretoria's refusal to supply anti-retroviral medicines (as a Harvard Public Health School study showed). To his credit, Zuma reversed course by 2003, as public pressure arose from the Treatment Action Campaign and its international allies. That's exactly what the main local activist network, Climate Justice Now! South Africa, must repeat, or otherwise permit Zuma to remain a signatory to a far worse genocide.

In the US, given that Obama's counterproductive cap-and-trade legislation is gridlocked in the Senate, the logical response -- if he cares a whit about the climate -- is to compel the Environmental Protection Agency to start shrinking greenhouse gas emissions by the worst polluters through its recent "endangerment" finding, to locate serious resources (e.g. through Third World debt cancellation) to pay carbon debt damages that can finance adaptation for climate victims, and to formally decommission the nascent US carbon markets, which delay the needed structural change towards a post-carbon economy. None of these strategies need congressional authorization.

In South Africa, Zuma should do exactly the same. Neither will, of course.

So uncivil society will have to take up the slack and apply direct pressure, starting with the slogan "leave the oil in the soil, the coal in the hole, and the tarsand in the land!" Indeed the most effective antidote to the post-Copenhagen hangover came from environmentalists -- most visibly, Greenpeace -- stretching from Australia to Africa to Appalachia to Alberta.

On December 20, on a bridge leading to the world's largest coal port, in Newcastle, Australia's Rising Tide activists blocked a train for 7.5 hours, with 23 arrests.

In South Africa, groundWork, Earthlife, and the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance are amongst the country's serious environmentalists trying to keep coal in the hole, by protesting the recently-announced $3.75 billion World Bank loan to Eskom (which helps fund the vast Medupi coal-fired plant), increased coal exports from Richards Bay, ultra-cheap electricity for aluminum smelters and mines, filthy operations of Sasol oil-to-coal, a new dirty oil refinery near Port Elizabeth, and a proposed Durban-Johannesburg pipeline which will double fuel flow to Africa's least sustainable city.

Up the Atlantic Coast, the climate's and the people's main ally is the militancy which keeps Niger Delta oil in the soil. The Port Harcourt-based NGO Environmental Rights Action, led by visionary Nnimmo Bassey, links local destruction to global climate chaos. Sabotage of oil extraction is the consistent tactic of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, which ended a two-month ceasefire by attacking a Shell and Chevron pipeline six hours after the Copenhagen Accord was signed.

In Appalachia, West Virginia's Climate Ground Zero activists have, according to a December 19 report by Vicki Smith, "chained themselves to giant dump trucks, scaled 80-foot trees to stop blasting and paddled boots online into a 9 million-gallon sludge pond. They've blocked roads, hung banners and staged sit-ins. Virginia-based Massey Energy claims a single 3 1/2-hour occupation cost the company $300,000."

And in Canada on December 20, anti-tarsands environmentalist Ingmar Lee climbed a flagpole at the British Columbia parliament to protest carbon crimes by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Provincial Premier Gordon Campbell, and their ally Tzeporah Berman from the corrupted NGO ForestEthics. At the Canadian High Commission on London's Pall Mall last week, Camp for Climate Action activists offered solidarity to Alberta's indigenous Canadian tarsands victims by cutting down the maple-leaf flag, drowning it in crude oil, and then locking down on an upstairs balcony.

So if only two things were accomplished in Copenhagen, they were the unveiling of Pretoria, Delhi, Beijing, and Brasilia as willing criminal accomplices to the Washington/Brussel/Tokyo/
Melbourne/Ottawa axis, and the rise of Climate Justice Action, Climate Justice Now!,, and parallel movements whose hundreds of thousands of protesters swarmed streets of the world's cities.

The next question is whether in 2010, before the next fiasco in Mexico City, the latter can cancel the former. We all depend upon an affirmative answer.

Patrick Bond directs the UKZN Centre for Civil Society. URL:

A Guy You Never Heard of, Lester "Red" Rodney, Died This Week

Lester "Red" Rodney died this week. You've probably never heard of him. He was a sports writer who battled against racism. He should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame. You haven't and he isn't because he wrote for the Daily Worker. Can't be having no commies in the Hall.

The following is from Edge of Sports.

More than a Sportswriter: Lester "Red" Rodney: 1911-2009
By Dave Zirin
Print this article

It didn't make SportsCenter, but one of history's most influential sportswriters died this week at the age of 98. His name was Lester Rodney. Lester was one of the first people to write about a young Negro League prospect named Jackie Robinson. He was the last living journalist to cover the famous 1938 fight at Yankee Stadium between "The Brown Bomber" Joe Louis and Hitler favorite, Max Schmeling. He crusaded against baseball's color line when almost every other journalist pretended it didn't exist. He edited a political sports page that engaged his audience in how to fight for a more just sports world. His writing, which could describe the beauty of a well-turned double play in one sentence and blast injustice in the next, is still bracing and ahead of its time. He should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Instead he was largely erased from the books.

If you have never heard of Lester Rodney, there is a very simple reason why: the newspaper he worked at from 1936-1958 was the Daily Worker, the party press of the U.S. Communist Party. Lester used his paper to launch the first campaign to end the color line in Major League Baseball. I spoke to Lester about this in 2004 and he said to me, "It's amazing. You go back and you read the great newspapers in the thirties, you'll find no editorials saying, 'What's going on here?

This is America, land of the free and people with the wrong pigmentation of skin can't play baseball?' Nothing like that. No challenges to the league, to the commissioner, no talking about Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson, who were obviously of superstar caliber. So it was this tremendous vacuum waiting."

The campaign was integrated into the Party's anti-racist work of the 1930s: "I spoke to the leaders of the YCL [the Young Communist League]. We talked about circulating the paper [at ballparks]. It just evolved as we talked about the color line and some kids in the YCL suggested, 'Why don't we go to the ballparks-to Yankee Stadium, Ebbets Field, the Polo Grounds-with petitions?' We wound up with at least a million and a half signatures that we delivered straight to the desk of [baseball commissioner] Judge Landis."

As Lester fought to end the Color Ban, he also never stopped highlighting and covering the Negro League teams, giving them press at a time when they invisible men outside of the African American press.

But it was Jackie Robinson who captured Lester's imagination. Armed with a press pass to the Ebbets Field locker room, he saw up close the way Robinson was told to "just shut up and play" despite the constant harassment during his inaugural 1947 campaign. "Jackie was suppressing his very being, his personality," said Lester. "He was a fiercely intelligent man. He knew his role and he accepted it. And the black players who followed him knew what he meant too."

Lester saw the way their play – and their courage – helped inspire the struggle for Civil Rights, especially in the South. Lester told me about a dramatic exhibition game in Atlanta where all the dynamics of the Black Freedom Struggle were on display. "This exhibition game wound up with the Black fans being allowed in because they had overflowed the segregated stands, they had poured in from outlying districts to see the first integrated game in Georgia history. The Klan had said, 'This must not happen.' That night there was this tremendous sight of Robinson, [Dodgers African American players] Don Newcombe, and Roy Campanella coming out and the black fans behind the ropes and in the stands standing and roaring their greeting. A large sector of whites were just sitting and booing. Then other white people, hesitantly at first, stood up and consciously differentiated themselves from the booers and clapped. This was an amazing spectacle.

This was the Deep South many years before the words civil rights were widely known. So it had its impact… Roy Campanella, once said to me something like, 'Without the Brooklyn Dodgers you don't have Brown v. Board of Education.' I laughed, I thought he was joking but he was stubborn. He said, 'All I know is we were the first ones on the trains, we were the first ones down South not to go around the back of the restaurant, first ones in the hotels.' He said, 'We were like the teachers of the whole integration thing.'"

Lester would still become emotional when he recalls Jackie Robinson and his impact. "There are very few people of whom you can say with certainty that they made this a somewhat better country. Without doubt you can say that about Jackie Robinson. His legacy was not, 'Hooray, we did it,' but 'Buddy, there's still unfinished work out there' He was a continuing militant, and that's why the Dodgers never considered this brilliant baseball man as a manager or coach. It's because he was outspoken and unafraid. That's the kind of person he was. In fact, the first time he was asked to play at an old-timers' game at Yankee Stadium, he said 'I must sorrowfully refuse until I see more progress being made off the playing field on the coaching lines and in the managerial departments.' He made people uncomfortable. In fact it was that very quality which made him something special. He always made you feel that 'Buddy, there's still unfinished work out there.'" We can absolutely say the same about Lester Rodney, albeit with a twist. Yes, Lester made you feel like there was unfinished work out there. But he also made you feel like the great fun in life was in trying to get it done. That and seeing a perfectly turned 6-4-3 double play.

[Read Irwin Silber's Press Box Red for a terrific biography on Lester. It's a hell of a story.]

79-Year-Old Woman Says Houston Police Gave Her A Beating

A 79 year old women has filed a lawsuit over a police beating that occurred last August. The woman was stopped for a routine traffic check on her way home from church when she was attacked. Let's see...the woman was African American...could racism have been involved? Police brutality, racism...never heard of such a thing, have you?

From the Houston Press

79-Year-Old Woman Says HPD Gave Her A Beating

It was a steamy hot day in mid-August when 79-year-old Tillion Thomas was driving home after a church function. Suddenly, she saw police lights in her mirror. A cop was pulling her over for allegedly speeding.

It was, however, anything but a routine traffic stop, claims Thomas. The retired school teacher is suing the City of Houston and its police department in Houston federal court for violating her civil rights, claiming that the cop beat up and hospitalized her.

"It's a blatant case of excessive force and police brutality," Thomas' attorney, Jason Gibson, tells Hair Balls. "I have no idea what the officer was thinking. I don't know what someone her age could do to make an officer fear for his life in such a way that he would apply that much force."

Thomas says that the officer pulled her over on Cullen and then made the senior citizen drive down a dark gravel side-street. There, the officer asked to see Thomas's ID.

And that's when things began to go bad, says Thomas.

According to the lawsuit:

As Thomas was pulling her license out of her wallet, [the officer] snatched the wallet and threw it to the ground. [The officer] proceeded to jerk Thomas by her left hand, placed Thomas in handcuffs and kicked her in the back of the leg, causing her to fall to the ground. [The officer] violently drug Thomas across the gravel road and jammed his knee into both her neck and chest, causing severe pain and trauma to Thomas.

Thomas was ordered to get up, but she could not because she was still pinned to the ground under [the officer]. Thomas was again drug across the gravel road and thrown to the floor of [the officer's] police cruiser, where she was taken to the police station. Thomas was physically unable to get out of the cruiser or enter the station by herself and had to be carried.

Afterward, says Gibson, Thomas' pants had holes in the knees from being dragged across the gravel. But that was the least of the damage. At the police station, Thomas claims, officers took pictures of her wounds and then drove her to the hospital, where she received care for injuries to her back, neck and chest.

From there, the police drove Thomas back to the station, where they charged her with resisting arrest. Gibson says the charge has since been dismissed.

Gibson believes the attack on Thomas, an African-American, was racially motivated. "She was coming home from church in a new Mercedes," he says. "To me, it seems like it's got to be a pure racial situation."

Thomas claims that she still suffers pain from the injuries and is seeking damages.

"Normally I don't like hauling off on law enforcement unless it's something egregious," says Gibson. "This wasn't some kid mouthing off and doing something, but was an elderly lady who posed no threat whatsoever. It's just inexcusable."

City attorney Annie Teehan says that because the case was recently filed, she has no comment at this juncture.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


We're back but we're different. From now on, I'll publish hear some stuff that I've posted that day at my facebook site. What you'll get is a very short comment from me, and an article from somewhere (which I'll note). Is this worthwhile? I don't know, but it is what the hell.

I'll probably need to update my links, but not today.

One Year Later: America's Worst Environmental Disaster Continues with No Regulatory Relief in Sight

One year after environmental disaster in Tennasee area residents describe the
area as a moonscape, a war zone, a sad sight.

Press Release from Environmental Justice

One Year Later: America's Worst Environmental Disaster Continues with No
Regulatory Relief in Sight

Spill in Tennessee Dec. 22, 2008, sent 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash into
nearby homes, rivers, and communities

December 21, 2009

Washington, DC -- It's been one year and piles of coal ash still remain. Train
cars full of the toxic waste move from Kingston, Tennessee to Perry County,
Alabama. The few remaining residents along the Clinch and Emory Rivers say the
cleanup goes on, but not much of the scenery has changed. They describe it as a
moonscape, a war zone, a sad sight.

One year ago, a billion gallons of toxic coal ash -- the leftovers from
coal-fired power plants that contain dangerously high levels of arsenic,
selenium and other toxins -- burst through a dam at the Tennessee Valley
Authority's Kingston Plant. It spread across 300 acres, destroying dozens of
homes and poisoning the Emory and Clinch Rivers.

The nation quickly took notice. Congress convened hearings about the disaster
and brought experts in to discuss the impacts that coal ash has not only in
Kingston, but at similar sites across the U.S. Local newspapers wrote about coal
ash ponds in other parts of the country. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson vowed
that her agency would introduce the first ever federal regulations on coal ash
ponds by the end of this year. But just last week, the EPA announced they were
going to delay federal coal ash regulations "due to the complexity of the
analysis the agency is currently finishing."

"We're obviously disappointed that the EPA couldn't get these regulations out to
the public before the end of this year," said Earthjustice attorney and coal ash
expert Lisa Evans. "Power industry lobbyists have relentlessly pressured EPA,
the White House, and other federal agencies to back off regulating toxic ash.
Polluters are spreading baseless fears about cost and compliance. But what we
know to be true is that the tragedy that happened in Tennessee is just waiting
to happen again unless the EPA acts quickly and forces stronger protections."

Earthjustice has compiled a timeline of events related to the Tennessee disaster
over the last year. It can be found at:\

In March, the EPA sent letters to every coal ash pond owner seeking information
about the size, age, location and last inspection of coal ash ponds. 584 coal
ash ponds were tallied, but some companies refused to turn over the information,
citing "confidential business information" claims.

In June, the EPA identified 49 "high hazard" coal ash ponds, where the failure
of a dam will probably cause a loss of human life. But it wasn't until members
of Congress and environmental groups got involved that EPA decided to share the
list of high hazard sites with the public.

"For 30 years, these coal ash ponds have gone unnoticed and unchecked," Evans
added. "It's sad to think that it took a tragedy such as what happened in
Tennessee to get our government to finally take notice."


Lisa Evans, Earthjustice, (781) 631-4119
Jared Saylor, Earthjustice, (202) 236-5855

Prachanda warns of 4th movement and indefinite General Strike from January 24th

Nepal's Maoists promise there is more to come and a fourth movement will start
soon with general strike to follow. Prachanda expresses disgust with New Deli's
interference in the internal affairs of Nepal.

From "Democracy and Class Struggle"

Prachanda warns of 4th movement and indefinite General Strike from January 24th

KATHMANDU: Wrapping up a three-day nationwide general strike at a victory rally
in the capital Tuesday, Nepal's Maoist supremo Pushpa Kamal Dahal

Prachanda warned it was also the announcement of a fourth protest movement
against the government that would culminate in an indefinite general strike from
Jan 24.

In the past, the Maoists had enforced a 15-day blockade during the 10-year
"People's War" and a 19-day peaceful general shutdown in 2006 as part of the
pro-democracy movement against King Gyanendra's attempt to rule the country with
the help of the army. Prachanda said the new protests would start from Christmas
Day as a mass awareness campaign to open people's eyes to the presence of
"foreign agents" in their midst. He also said the campaign would expose the
corrupt indicted in the Rayamajhi Commission that was formed after the fall of
the royal regime. Though the commission was formed to punish the perpetrators of
the anti-people coup, including the king, its report was never made public.

The nearly two-hour rally in Naya Baneshwor - that was the site of violent
clashes between protesters and security forces Sunday - saw Prachanda, for the
first time throwing a direct challenge to India, accusing it of naked
intervention in Nepal's internal matters. "I held talks with the Nepali Congress
(NC) leaders but they produced no result," the former revolutionary said with
biting sarcasm. "I held talks with the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist
Leninist (UML), the Prime Minister... But none produced results. Now I have to
go to Delhi for talks."

Prachanda reminded his audience that in the years after 2002, when King
Gyanendra had sacked Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and propped up three
successive governments of his own choosing, the then governments had asked the
underground Maoists to declare a ceasefire and start dialogue. "But we had
refused, saying we will not negotiate with the servants," he said. "We said we
will talk only with the master. It is now time to say the same thing."

The Maoist chief alleged that New Delhi had propped up Nepal's coalition
government, which was a "puppet" and a "robot" in its hands. When Nepali Prime
Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal returned from the UN climate summit in Copenhagen,
Prachanda said the government did not project Nepal's interests abroad but only
tried to project that Indian premier Manmohan Singh had expressed his support
for it as well as the Chinese government. "The Maoists are not NC or UML," he
said. "Treat the Maoists as Maoists."

The new Maoist anger with New Delhi was stoked afresh last week after Nepal's
army chief Gen Chhatraman Singh Gurung went to India at the invitation of the
Indian Army chief, Gen Deepak Kapoor, to receive the traditional honour of being
declared general of the Indian Army by Indian President Pratibha Patil.

During the visit, at a banquet hosted by the Nepali general, Gen Kapoor was
reported as saying that he opposed the merger of the Maoists' People's
Liberation Army with the Nepal Army as that would lead to the politicisation of
the latter. "The comprehensive peace agreement (that ended the Maoist insurgency
in 2006) promises the integration," Prachanda said. "Kapoor's statement was a
naked intervention in Nepal's internal matters and yet the corrupt ministers of
the current government remained silent."

Prachanda said that at a time his party was striving to restore civilian
supremacy in Nepal by campaigning against the President, Dr Ram Baran Yadav, who
had resurrected the possibility of another military coup by preventing his
government from sacking the insubordinate army chief, it was clear that civilian
supremacy was actually murdered in New Delhi.

The Maoists have laid down a five-point agenda for their talks with India. They
have also announced a month-long campaign from Dec 25, after which, they have
warned of an indefinite nationwide general strike from Jan 24.

Maoist agenda for talks with India

- All unequal treaties should be scrapped, including the 1950 Peace and
Friendship Treaty; all secret treaties have to be revealed

- All border disputes have to be resolved; India has to recall troops from
Nepal's Kalapani area

- Trade deficit with India has to be corrected

- India should enact prompt strategy to make Nepal gain from being sandwiched
between the world's two fastest growing economies

- India has to accept Nepal as an equal state.

Source: Times of India

Nation's Largest RN Organization Says Healthcare Bill Cedes Too Much to Insurance Industry

A few days ago I got into an argument with some "Democrats" on facebook. That
was an experience. Anyway, they were lambasting me for thinking the current
healt reform bill was a sham. They said I wasn't a "wonk" like them, so how
could I know what I was talking about. I mentioned my years working at an inner
city community health center, as a street outreach worker for people with HIV
and drug users, and as director of a free clinic. I don't think that convinced
them. So this is for them. Perhaps, they will accept that the nations largest
union of RNs might have some idea of what they are talking about.

Nation's Largest RN Organization Says Healthcare Bill Cedes Too Much to
Insurance Industry

By National Nurses United

December 21, 2009

The 150,000 member National Nurses United, the nation's largest union and
professional organization of registered nurses in the U.S., today criticized the
healthcare bill now advancing in the U.S. Senate saying it is deeply flawed and
grants too much power to the giant insurers.

"It is tragic to see the promise from Washington this year for genuine,
comprehensive reform ground down to a seriously flawed bill that could actually
exacerbate the healthcare crisis and financial insecurity for American families,
and that cedes far too much additional power to the tyranny of a callous
insurance industry," said NNU co-president Karen Higgins, RN.

NNU Co-president Deborah Burger, RN challenged arguments of legislation
proponents that the bill should still be passed because of expanded coverage,
new regulations on insurers, and the hope that it will be improved in the
House-Senate conference committee or future years.

"Those wishful statements ignore the reality that much of the expanded coverage
is based on forced purchase of private insurance without effective controls on
industry pricing practices or real competition and gaping loopholes in the
insurance reforms," said Burger.

Further, said NNU Co-president Jean Ross, RN, "the bill seems more likely to be
eroded, not improved, in future years due to the unchecked influence of the
healthcare industry lobbyists and the lessons of this year in which all the
compromises have been made to the right."

"Sadly, we have ended up with legislation that fails to meet the test of true
healthcare reform, guaranteeing high quality, cost effective care for all
Americans, and instead are further locking into place a system that entrenches
the chokehold of the profit-making insurance giants on our health. If this bill
passes, the industry will become more powerful and could be beyond the reach of
reform for generations," Higgins said.

NNU cited ten significant problems in the legislation, noting many of the same
flaws also exist in the House version and are likely to remain in the bill that
emerges from the House-Senate reconciliation process:

1. The individual mandate forcing all those without coverage to buy private
insurance, with insufficient cost controls on skyrocketing premiums and other
insurance costs.

2. No challenge to insurance company monopolies, especially in the top 94
metropolitan areas where one or two companies dominate, severely limiting choice
and competition.

3. An affordability mirage. Congressional Budget Office estimates say a
family of four with a household income of $54,000 would be expected to pay 17
percent of their income, $9,000, on healthcare exposing too many families to
grave financial risk.

4. The excise tax on comprehensive insurance plans which will encourage
employers to reduce benefits, shift more costs to employees, promote
proliferation of high-deductible plans, and lead to more self-rationing of care
and medical bankruptcies, especially as more plans are subject to the tax every
year due to the lack of adequate price controls. A Towers-Perrin survey in
September found 30 percent of employers said they would reduce employment if
their health costs go up, 86 percent said they'd pass the higher costs to their

5. Major loopholes in the insurance reforms that promise bans on exclusion
for pre-existing conditions, and no cancellations for sickness. The loopholes

* Provisions permitting insurers and companies to more than double
charges to employees who fail "wellness" programs because they have diabetes,
high blood pressure, high cholesterol readings, or other medical conditions.
* Insurers are permitted to sell policies "across state lines",
exempting patient protections passed in other states. Insurers will thus set up
in the least regulated states in a race to the bottom threatening public
protections won by consumers in various states.
* Insurers can charge four times more based on age plus more for
certain conditions, and continue to use marketing techniques to cherry-pick
healthier, less costly enrollees.
* Insurers may continue to rescind policies for "fraud or intentional
misrepresentation" – the main pretext insurance companies now use to cancel

6. Minimal oversight on insurance denials of care; a report by the California
Nurses Association/NNOC in September found that six of California's largest
insurers have rejected more than one-fifth of all claims since 2002.

7. Inadequate limits on drug prices, especially after Senate rejection of an
amendment, to protect a White House deal with pharmaceutical giants, allowing
pharmacies and wholesalers to import lower-cost drugs.

8. New burdens for our public safety net. With a shortage of primary care
physicians and a continuing fiscal crisis at the state and local level, public
hospitals and clinics will be a dumping ground for those the private system
doesn't want.

9. Reduced reproductive rights for women.

10. No single standard of care. Our multi-tiered system remains with access to
care still determined by ability to pay. Nothing changes in basic structure of
the system; healthcare remains a privilege, not a right.

"Desperation to pass a bill, regardless of its flaws, has made the White House
and Congress subject to the worst political extortion and new, crippling
concessions every day," Burger said.

"NNU and nurses will continue to work with the thousands of grassroots activists
across the nation to campaign for the best reform, which would be to expand
Medicare to cover everyone, the same type of system working more effectively in
every other industrial country. The day of that reform will come," said Ross.