About 1,500 people defied the bitter cold on January 26, 2013 to protest the transport of dangerous tar sands via pipeline from Montreal to Portland, Maine. Here’s a video from the march. Can you find yourself among these defiant souls in this video or in this photo album? If you weren’t there, don’t feel guilty. The fight against this project has just begun. Join us next time; this is a winnable battle and the next round probably won’t be so cold.
Last night’s episode of “Banned in Boston” was a really good one. First we talked about Aaron Swartz and his unjust prosecution by Carmen Ortiz. Then we explored the dark implications of the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) conducting recent random bag searches on the MBTA. This is one of my favorite episodes so far and I hope you like it too. The direct link is here.
Hillary Clinton said something today that made my head spin:
“The United States is the most extraordinary force for peace and progress the world has ever known”
“Cognitive dissonance” is a term that’s been losing its meaning due to misuse as a popular stand-in term for illogical activity in general. But what it refers to, per the original coinage, is the unpleasant experience of having a core belief challenged by contrary evidence. The frequent result is that people ignore the contrary evidence (even if overwhelming), invalidate that evidence through mental gymnastics, or otherwise make excuses that allow them to keep their core belief and feel good about it.
The core belief that Hillary Clinton articulates in the quote above is refuted by such a mountain of evidence that it’s hard to believe an educated, neutral observer wouldn’t consider this a classic case of cognitive dissonance and its result.
Everyone in the United States, with few exceptions, has been bombarded with nationalistic propaganda since before they could walk. Some of this propaganda arises “organically” from people who naturally want to believe that the big, sexy, powerful nation to which they feel attached is good. More of it is the product of a multi-billion dollar propaganda machine that does its job much better than I do mine. I’ve spent hundreds of hours trying to convince people, mostly Democrats, that cheerful support of leaders like Obama and Clinton is, in effect, support of what they do. Does that seem like it would be difficult? It’s almost impossible.
The reason it’s almost impossible, I think, is because it would mean abandoning the core belief “the US is mostly good, except when Republicans are in charge.” In order to hold a core belief like this, people will say grass is blue, the sky is green and the moon is made of cheese. They will say anything rather than the truth.
I don’t know how to work around this. I wish I did. I’ve been studying methods of debate and persuasion but it hasn’t helped. I often feel ineffective and frustrated. I’d do anything to stop these wars.
But frankly, I have no idea what to do. I’m wondering if I should just shut up and enjoy the perks of this evil empire I’ve been born into rather than continue to struggle and accomplish nothing. Comments?
Today is the US federal holiday called “Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.” Also today, Barack Obama was sworn in for a second term as President of the United States using a Bible that Martin Luther King, Jr. once owned. Cornell West has a problem with this particular Bible being used in this particular way, and he said so in an expressive monologue last Thursday.
The forum was “Vision for a New America: A Future without Poverty,” a symposium in Washington, DC hosted by Tavis Smiley. Newt Gingrich and Marcia Fudge were among the other panelists, but Cornell West definitely made the comments that have attracted the most attention. Presented below is both the video that has become so popular and my transcript of West’s words.
What do you think of what Cornell West had to say? Was it a moving speech? Was it over-inflated rhetoric? Was it both? Please share your comments below.
Transcript of Cornel West’s January 17, 2013 statements regarding the use of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Bible during the inauguration of Barack Obama:
Now, when I got the news that my dear brother Barack Obama, President Obama, was going to put his precious hand on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Bible, I got upset. And I got upset because you don’t play with Martin Luther King, Jr. and you don’t play with his people. And by his people, what I mean is people of good conscience, fundamentally committed to peace, and truth and justice. And especially the black tradition that produced it.
All the blood, sweat and tears that went into producing a Martin Luther King, Jr. generated a brother of such high decency and dignity that you don’t use his prophetic fire as just a moment in a presidential pageantry, without understanding the challenge that he presents to all of those in power no matter what color they are. No matter what color they are!
So, the righteous indignation of a Martin Luther King, Jr. becomes a moment in political calculation and that makes my blood boil. Why? Because Martin Luther King, Jr., he died knowing the three crimes against humanity he was wrestling with. Jim Crow – traumatizing, terrorizing, stigmatizing black people, lynching, insultful – not just segregation the way the press wants to talk about.
Second, carpet bombing in Vietnam, killing innocent people especially innocent children. Those are war crimes Martin Luther King, Jr. was willing to die for. And thirdly, was poverty of all colors. He said it’s a crime against humanity for the richest nation in the history of the world to have so many of its precious children of all colors living in poverty, and especially on the chocolate side of the nation, in Indian reservations, in brown barrios, in yellow slices, and black ghettos, then. We call them hoods now, but ghettos then.
So I said to myself, “ok nothing wrong with putting your hand on the Bible.” Even though the bible talks about justice and Jesus is talking bout “the least of these.” But when you put in Martin’s bible? I said, “this is personal for me. This is the tradition I came out of. This is the tradition that is connected to my grandmothers prayers, and my grandfathers sermons, and my mothers tears, and my fathers smile, and it’s over against all of those in power who refuse to follow decent policies.”
So I say to myself, “Brother Martin Luther King, Jr., what would you say about the new Jim Crow? What would you say about the prison industrial complex? What would you say about the invisibility of so many of our prisoners? So many of our incarcerated, especially when 62% of them are there for soft drugs, but not one executive of a Wall Street bank gone to jail? Not one!” Martin doesn’t like that. Not one wiretapper. Not one torturer under the Bush administration, at all.
Then, what you say about the drones bring dropped on our precious brothers and sisters in Pakistan and Somalia and Yemen? Those are war crimes, just like war crimes in Vietnam. Martin Luther King, Jr., what would you say? “My voice hollers out,” and don’t tame it with your hand on his bible. Allow his prophetic voice to be heard. Martin, what would you say about the poverty in America now, beginning with the children, then the elderly, then our working folk, and all colors not just here, around the world. Don’t hide and conceal his challenge. Don’t tame his prophetic fire.
So, that as much as I’m glad that Barack Obama won – I think that brother Mitt Romney would have been a catastrophe, and I understand my brother Newt told the truth about fat vampire capitalism but that’s true for the system as a whole not just Mitt Romney in that regard – but when Barack Obama attempts to use that rich tradition of Frederick Douglas and Ida B. Wells-Barnett? Use the tradition of A. Phillip Randolph? Use the tradition of Rabbi Joshua Heschel? Use the tradition of Tom Hayden and so many others struggling to produce that voice that pushed Martin in the direction that it did? I get upset.
People say, “Oh brother West, there’s Smiley and West, hating Obama.” No, no. We just loving the tradition that produced Martin Luther King, Jr. and were not going to allow it to be in any way sanitized, deodorized and sterilized, we want the subversive power to be heard. That’s what made me think, when you said he was gonna put in his hand on that bible. And I’m praying or him. I’m praying for him. As is Newt – both of us Christians, you Catholic, I’m Holy Ghost funkygut gutbucket Baptist – but we’re praying for him. Putting pressure on.
Want to read more on this subject?
Check out “MLK’s Vehement Condemnations of US Militarism” by Glenn Greenwald.
I won’t watch this inauguration
I won’t watch you crown the conqueror
I won’t get drunk on flags and trumpets
I won’t put that American dick in my mouth
I don’t want your wool scarfs and trenchcoats
I don’t want your Carters and Clintons and Kerrys
I don’t want the Georges or Joe Biden
I don’t want Sasha and Malia in pretty dresses
Because I don’t believe in killing for capitalism
So I won’t watch you crown the conqueror
And I won’t get high on speeches and smiles
And I won’t go along with it, even for a day
Even for warm January day
Cooler than those ahead
From a legal standpoint, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts isn’t the most dangerous place to light up a joint. Through voter decision, marijuana was decriminalized in 2009. More recently, the people of Massachusetts voted in favor of medical marijuana at the general election last November. It is still possible, however, to be arrested and given up to two years in jail for a tiny amount of pot.
Here’s how. “Possession with intent to distribute” carries up to two years jail time and a fine of up to $5,000. The amount doesn’t matter.
And in February 2012, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Council ruled that “possession with intent to distribute” applies even if there is no sale has been made and only small, decriminalized amounts of marijuana are involved. The case before them involved Shawn M. Keefner, arrested 2010 smoking a joint on a porch in Great Barrington. Cops allegedly found him carrying three gram bags and some suspicious messages on his phone.
Maybe Keefner was a small time weed dealer, maybe he wasn’t. But the laws are currently in place so that even cutting a dime bag for your bestie can land you in jail. Caveat venditor. Carrying weed in more than one container probably invites trouble too. But hey, if they want to arrest you bad enough, they’ll find a reason whether you’re breaking any laws or not. Be careful, but don’t get paranoid.
Rita Sebastian never fails to impress me with her rare combination of bravery, compassion and tenacity. She was in the Banned in Boston studio last night as we talked to Ned Paschene, a Cree activist involved with the Idle No More protests erupting across Canada. A direct link to the episode is here.
Rita has a tendency to get where the action is. Last week, Rita headed up to Ottawa in answer to an invite from Ned Paschene. On Friday, January 11, she joined a call for women to prevent Chief Matthew Coon Come of Quebec and others from attending a meeting with Stephen Harper since certain people were excluded. Here’s video of that.
Here’s a clip I shot of Rita last night outside UNregular Radio. In this second clip, Rita talks about Idle No More, Chief Theresa Spence, and what happened outside Stephen Harper’s meeting.