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Is the blizzard travel ban in Massachusetts authoritarian?

8 Feb
travelban

Talk of the Nero travel ban in the Twitterverse.

Yesterday, media hit the panic button and people rushed, well-trained, to purchase merchandise.  Today, Deval L. Patrick, Governor of Massachusetts, announced a ban on motor vehicle travel beginning at 4 pm and continuing until further notice.

The proclamation, called Executive Order No. 543, cites authority “pursuant to the power provided by Chapter 639 of the Acts of 1950.” Motorists are threatened with a $500 fine and up to one year in jail if they violate the governor’s order.

Unsurprisingly, not everyone is comfortable with the travel ban.  Bet Power, an outspoken Northampton, MA resident and longtime activist, wrote on Facebook:

I live in Massachusetts where it is snowing today as it typically does in winter in New England. I have never been ordered by law not to drive my car before, not even in the Great Chicago Blizzard of 1967 where 2 feet of snow fell every hour for 8 hours! Is it just me or does anyone else (especially in the western part of MA) feel weird about the total travel ban?

The ban doesn’t apply to safety people, public works people, healthcare workers, the media and those “that provide critical services to the public, including gasoline stations, food stores and hardware stores.” 

According to Patrick, “the point is not to figure out how to come down hard on people…it is to emphasize how critical it is that non-essential travel on the roads cease during this storm and the immediate aftermath. We will be flexible.”

Bet Power opined, “I wouldn’t want a cop figuring out if he can be ‘flexible’ with me while I’m sitting in the police station…I would prefer our government advises us to stay off the road for safety reasons, plowing by the DPW, etc. but not impose jail time and a fine if we, as free citizens, choose to drive our cars.”

This comment appeared on Occupy Boston's Facebook page.

This comment appeared on Occupy Boston’s Facebook page.

The Massachusetts travel ban wouldn’t bother me so much if there weren’t so many signs that authoritarianism is encroaching on our daily lives.  Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is doing random searches on the MBTA. Obama signed NDAA 2013 with all its frightening implications.  B. Manning is still in jail.  The list goes on.

I have no special gripe against Deval Patrick.  He’s no worse than any other politician who builds their career propping up a dirty system.  When Occupy Boston was camped in Dewey Square, he came down and walked through it.  That’s more than Mayor Menino did.  I’m willing to believe Governor Patrick’s primary motivation here is to save lives and save money.

But this executive order still normalizes heavy-handed use of government power.  Over the next few years, expect more travel bans, checkpoints and other prohibitive authoritarian tactics from the people at the top.  Expect people will be fighting back, too.

Dissing the DHS on Blog Talk Radio

5 Feb

 

Annie Lindstrom disguised as a wise old owl.

Annie Lindstrom disguised as a wise old owl.

I met Annie Lindstrom, a cheerful Florida resident who hosts a show called “Talkupy” on Blog Talk Radio, early last year. Today was my second time on her program and we began with a brief discussion of some of the projects that have grown out of Occupy Boston since its eviction.  We then turned our attention to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) activities in Massachusetts ranging from a US Customs service raid at Westgate Mall in Brockton last weekend to the ongoing intensification of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints on the Boston’s public transit system, the MBTA.  We ended with conversation about the tar sands pipeline situation in Portland, Maine.  Here’s a link.

TSA out of MBTA on “Banned in Boston”

1 Feb
Nelson Terry, Rene Perez and Garret Kirkland on the January 31, 2013 episode of "Banned in Boston."

Nelson Terry, Rene Perez and Garret Kirkland on the January 31, 2013 episode of “Banned in Boston.”

 John Ford, Rene Perez, Nelson Terry and I had a good time making last night’s “Banned in Boston.” That’s despite tackling such weighty topics as armed Federal agents conducting random bag searches in the subway system and the possibility that Queen Elizabeth II and George W. Bush are reptilian aliens who intentionally want tar sands pipelines to destroy Earth’s current ecosystem.  Garret Kirkland was in the studio with us, and Ruth Garcia joined us for the end.  A direct link to the January 31, 2013 episode is here.

I know what’s in my bag!

25 Jan
Look at all the good people we had in (and, as shown here, outside) the UNregular Radio studio on January 24, 2013.  It's John Ford, Nelson Terry, Matthew Krawitz, Frank Capone, Garret Kirkland, Patrick Doherty, Tamarleigh Grenfell and Rene Perez.

Look at all the good people we had in (and, as shown here, outside) the UNregular Radio studio on January 24, 2013. It’s John Ford, Nelson Terry, Matthew Krawitz, Frank Capone, Garret Kirkland, Patrick Doherty, Tamarleigh Grenfell and Rene Perez.

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.

Cognitive Dissonance, Hillary Clinton, and empire

23 Jan

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.

The Empire is the most extraordinary force for peace and progress the galaxy has ever known. ~ Darth Vader

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?

Transcript: Cornel West on Barack Obama and Martin Luther King Jr.’s Bible

21 Jan

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.

Inauguration Day 2013

21 Jan

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

Massachusetts marijuana laws still allow prosecution for small amounts

19 Jan
Yep, even this lil nugget of "Bubba Kush" could land you in jail.

Yep, even this lil nugget of “Bubba Kush” could land you in jail.

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.