Ferguson: Centuries Old Racial Stereotypes Cut Apart Racial Divide by Thomas Martin Saturday

Posted in Community and Citizen Action, Essays, National Affairs, Race with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 20, 2014 by thomassobottke


A Pew Poll on the Michael Brown Murder Case shows that more than four out of five black Americans favor a vigorous prosecution and arrest of Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson. On the other side of the racial divide, just 37% of white Americans favor that course of action.

The overwhelming majority of all Americans favor full equality under the law for persons of all racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds. But when called upon to give real meaning to that view, a great many white Americans cannot do it. This is a white problem.

White discomfort at being in the presence of black Americans, where those same whites are not in the majority, in predominantly black communities, is where they meet a set of racial stereotypes so powerful that they were forged for nearly four centuries of white experience in which whites were the dominant race, most of that time the superior race.

The segregated and in other places hyper-segregated communities black, white, brown, red, and yellow that we live in is also something that feeds the dark monster of racial prejudice. To be fair and honest, most black Americans prefer to live in communities where many black Americans live. No one has to be informed that white Americans hold by orders of magnitude an even stronger preference to live in white dominant majority communities. They do so in large part in order to wall off black communities, and what they consider to be what black people most essentially are.

What do white, more conservative Americans think they are protecting themselves from: ignorance, low intelligence, poverty, crime, violence, vice, and mayhem. And the seas of blacks who have not entered the white elite part of our nation, are also seen as less intelligent, more likely to naturally engage in criminal activity, to be shiftless, lazy, and only interested in taking white people’s money for the easy life of welfare and food stamps—refusing employment to pursue that life.

And well, blacks can be, you know, so different and sometimes so black. Lighter colored blacks are part of our common racial legacy, so prominent in the Oscar Winning Best Picture last year, 12 Years a Slave. All of us resist going there for any length of time as whatever our color, there are things in the centuries of slavery and then Jim Crow Segregation too terrible to dwell upon.

So when any white citizen who has not worked, lived, and spent significant time in communities where whites are few, these racial stereotypes come with them. Black Americans who are not part of that portion of the black community that was able to benefit most from the nation’s Civil Rights Years of the Second Reconstruction are essentially living in the era of 1960’s even now. They have in material ways been left behind.

Most importantly, white indifference to the nation’s blacks as a whole, have let simmer and fester real problems of poverty which are the handmaidens of crime, and a sense of hopelessness.

Essential common community and national resources have only been focused and available for that short stint of time during the Administration of Lyndon B. Johnson, who said all Americans should be in the same position to run that race of the American dream. Amazingly, this white Southern president saw the black people of his day as shackled to the starting block when the starter gun goes off. The Michael Browns of this world too often discover those shackles around their ankles.

This was the world of Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri. He was one of the luckier ones. He had no criminal record as a juvenile or adult. He had two good parents in his life. In communities with high rates of poverty, the fact that Michael was set to enter a junior college, however humble, and had just last June graduated from his hometown high school in Ferguson bears witness to a strong record of achievement that sadly many black young men and women of Ferguson do not have. Brown himself did battle against those long odds to the very moment he was shot and killed by a Ferguson policeman.

The strong presence of black men of all conditions in the civil rights action in Ferguson since the shooting have testified most forcefully that with white indifference, and yes, white hostility to who these black men are feeds into what Dr. King called that sense of “nobodyness” that yet pervades the black community.

Young black men live in a world of constant contacts with police who are too often white, hostile, and who see them by their racial stereotypes to the exclusion of who they really are as human beings. In a strong echo of the freedom struggles of the 1960’s, several men were seen carrying the sign “I am a man” in the immediate aftermath of the shooting when protests began in Ferguson.

But Dr. King, as does this writer, has faith that the Arc of the Moral Universe bends toward justice. But all of us must do our share of the lifting to bend it more in the here and now to make the lives of black Americans who see no meaningful future as they grow to young manhood and young womanhood materially, and psychologically experience that hope and the common fruits of those hopes so common to other Americans.

Optimistically, let us focus for a moment on the 37% of white Americans today, who can so closely identify with their black brothers and sisters. How do they do it? The rest of you ought to find out.

We are seeing in Ferguson a new generation of black leaders connecting with the despair of these young men and helping them to dream once again of a better future—a better day that will challenge the common experience of hopelessness and despair so common to their condition.

And we are seeing so many young black Americans rising to non-violently and affirmatively seize the day and prepare themselves to be Americans who might transcend those long odds that Michael Brown was so very close to beating.

Thomas Martin Saturday
For Struggles for Justice
Speaking for the Voiceless, Protecting the Vulnerable”

Absence of an Arrest and Prosecution of Darren Wilson Has Ferguson, Missouri Citizens Outraged by Thomas Martin Saturday

Posted in Community and Citizen Action, National Affairs, Race, The Faith Community with tags , , , , , , , , on August 16, 2014 by thomassobottke

Jay Nixon in Ferguson

At a Saturday afternoon press conference with Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, Missouri State Police officials, and local government officials in an area church none of the many questions about when Darren Wilson, the officer who shot and killed Michael Brown would be arrested and charged with murder were continually brushed aside. This, a full week after the shooting of Brown, under conditions where the shooter in the man’s death was immediately known, and is not in dispute.

Local people also learned that a midnight curfew in Ferguson would be imposed tonight, and that Missouri Governor Jay Nixon had declared a state of emergency in the city in order to preserve public peace.

What the layers of law enforcement officials fail to understand is that the fuel for all the tension in Ferguson is the utter lack of a credible prosecution of a man, who happens to be a police officer in Ferguson itself.

The autopsy by the St. Louis County Coroner’s office was completed at mid-week, but not shared at all with the media or the community. Brown’s body was released to his parents who are grieving the loss of a son. The significant thing in terms of the criminal investigation is that if the autopsy were not complete, the body would remain at the County Morgue. Ferguson residents understandably want to know how many times Brown was shot, where he was hit, and what wound was fatal if known.

Incident reports made by both Ferguson City Police, and the St. Louis Sheriff’s Department have report numbers indicating that the reports are now public record, but those reports have been withheld all week long with no signs that officials will release it.

When finally, the police officer who shot Brown was identified as Darren Wilson, who has six years of police experience and no infractions from his department in that time was released with a surveillance video that shows Brown and his friend in the convenience store near where the shooting occurred. Brown is shown shoplifting a small box of mini cigars and pushing the owner aside. It’s shoplifting plain and simple. Was this a “strong armed robbery” suggesting a much more serious struggle over the cigars? That is highly questionable.

To cloud and fuzz over the case further, after the release of the video, clearly made available to destroy the reputation of the young Michael Brown was obviously intended to lead Americans not following this too close to in their conscious or subconscious minds to say, “Well he was a criminal and really big scary black man. He got what he deserved.“

I’ve covered beats as a professional journalist for a number of years in my earlier life. I’ve run into incident reports being withheld for a short time, with officers writing them to be able if I had the ability to convince the police captain in charge of them, to find out some basic outline of what happened in a murder, until the report was finalized. But I have never, ever heard of doing so for a full week and suggestions made by the Ferguson Police Chief at mid-week that a toxicology screen not available for a month or more would control when any information would be released.

If I were on scene covering this story, covering the Ferguson City Police beat along with the St. Louis County beat, what we called going to “the cop shops” daily, and looking at the daily logs to see any incident reports worthy of putting on the air in my case on a radio news broadcast, I would be forced to tell listeners in blunt fashion that this lack of procedural transparency is not only highly irregular, but points directly to what might be obstruction of justice or gross incompetence.

And the failure of District Attorney McCulloch to even file a charge or charges a full week after the basic facts are known both strains credulity, and raises the perception, if not the fact that McCulloch might even fail to prosecute, and if he finally does, that citizens of Ferguson have every right to question the integrity of this investigation.

Ferguson’s black population saw or learned of a police officer who used deadly force repeatedly when the young man by three witnesses, not connected to each other report the suspect, Michael Brown stopped, and this after he was hit at least once, and on his knees pleaded for the officer NOT to shoot him as an unarmed person. He also had put his hands, minus anything up in what is the commonly understood signal he was surrendering to the officer, and would be compliant to being cuffed and taken to headquarters in the back of a police cruiser.

That’s the core of it. Why did Darren Wilson continue to fire multiple shots into Michael Brown when deadly force was so patently unnecessary to put him into custody and into the justice system to himself be charged and arraigned post haste.

The Justice Department and some forty plus agents of the FBI are canvassing the city for witnesses. They’ve already questioned and have material for reports on the three main eyewitnesses. But as black witnesses even in the Twenty-first century are far from equal to even one white witness, the FBI knows they need two or three more.

Governor Jay Nixon centered the press conference on what he had done to enforce the curfew and keep the peace. Captain Ron Johnson of his State Patrol also answered questions but it was obvious to this reporter that they have him under tight restraints in doing a thing related to the actual investigation.
More than one questioner asked by almost yelling at the podium that there would be no peace without a measure of justice, and information as to how justice is actually proceeding in this case. Sadly, Nixon continued to assert that peace must come first, and that there is some improbable future date, unknown to him (The Governor of the State of Missouri) when an arrest, if one will ever be made, will happen.

Remember it took Sanford Florida police and the county District Attorney 38 days to actually make the arrest of George Zimmerman, who was declared by a jury verdict not guilty of killing Trayvon Martin, but was actually acting under his right to defend himself. We at Struggles for Justice accept the verdict of the jury, however inadequate it seems. It is the eerily similar problem in Ferguson that raises a set of huge legal and moral questions about the Brown shooting.

Until officials start sharing what should have been available within the first few days of the investigation, Ferguson will be a tinder box. The people there need a sign of justice, however small, to remain peaceful and hopeful that full justice will be done eventually .

Thomas Martin Saturday
for Struggles for Justice
“Speaking for the Voiceless, Protecting the Vulnerable”

Michael Brown Police Killing Looking Increasingly Like Murder by Thomas Martin Saturday

Posted in Community and Citizen Action, National Affairs, Race with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 12, 2014 by thomassobottke


Emerging details of what allegedly occurred between a Ferguson, Missouri police officer, and 18-year-old Michael Brown of that same municipality, are so strongly suggestive of murder, that the arrest of the officer involved must be made post haste for justice to be done

There is more than enough evidence to take him into custody and to arraign him on charges appropriate to the offense, which would have to be criminal if this was anything less than a fully justified shooting. Will the District Attorney choose to prosecute? None of us can make that decision for him. Yet, the Federal Justice Department is employing the FBI to learn if a civil rights violation did in fact occur, and is monitoring the fidelity of local justice officials to a proper criminal investigation, along with whether or not the officer doing the shooting was justified where deadly force was used.

Police and county officials in this suburban area of St. Louis, where 70% of the population is black, have confirmed at least this much:

The original altercation with an unarmed young adult male black identified as Michael Brown was over the policeman’s order to move to the sidewalk. We know start to finish Brown was unarmed. Authorities have confirmed that at least two shots were fired at Brown, one from inside the police car, and that one of the two shots struck Brown.

Michael Brown’s decision to run most obviously was over self-preservation, and not any desire to obstruct justice.

The officer pursued Brown in the direction he ran in. Several more shots were fired hitting Brown, and he died at that second shooting scene. There are witnesses to this, and they have yet to be interviewed days after the shooting.

The officer who did the shooting is known, and the results of a full autopsy by the County Coroner’s Office is finished and known. Neither the identity of the police officer or the autopsy results have been communicated to the community. This only raises civic and racial tensions to dangerous levels in and of itself. Full transparency in communicating with citizens about this disturbing case is badly needed.

Police officers nationwide will tell you that murders or deaths must be investigated, and that getting as many of the facts and apprehending guilty parties are best done in just the first 48 hours. That deadline has long past.

It now appears that Brown’s body was left at the scene for some hours. And that the officer concerned whoever he is, did not call for backup in a pursuit where shots had been fired. This is not legally required, but no police departments I know of would tell you this is anything approaching near normal operating procedure. We have all seen police officers wisely call for and get backup on the most routine traffic stop.

Obviously, any police department faced with even the distinct possibility or certitude that one of their officers pursued an unarmed man and shot him down in cold blood, rather than getting backup, continuing the pursuit, and using a level of force well below what was used here raises extremely serious questions about the policing in this town and the county. The treatment of black men by police is most seriously implicated in this case.

Ferguson’s black community see themselves as both a voiceless and featureless population, denied their common humanity and dignity. The case for this voicelessness, vulnerability, and the immense injustice here is so manifest that it need not be made at all. This criminal injustice system, as I call it, shows a level of injustice that is immense in scope.

The larger view here is that black men, as the grandfather of Michael Brown said last night in an interview, seem to have a mark upon them that says to officers “kill me.”

We have driving while black, Trayvon Martin put walking while black into focus, and in so many cases for so many years black men merely existing in places generates a disproportionate amount of policing, and the use of force far in excess of what is required, especially compared to comparable white citizens.

Just a week ago, an unarmed black man violating a New York City ordnance to sell unpacked cigarettes on the street was put into a fatal choke hold, when three or even four officers were there who assisted the officer using the choke hold to make the arrest. It should be factually noted that chokeholds have been barred from policing in the city entirely for some time. That case is being investigated, with a looming expectation that the officer employing the chokehold will not be held accountable. This case is not necessarily murder, but acts which led to the death of an unarmed man. That man was a large black man. So the arrest by multiple officers was fully justified if they did have more than reasonable concerns that his arguing with them necessitated an arrest.

There have been far too many black men shot down, brutally killed in so many cases where this level of force is, on its face, not justified, that our perceptions as a society of adult black men or even teenage boys by police connected to the policing itself is a national issue that must be addressed now.

What can I say about this state of affairs? Any sentient being occupying these United States knows full well that police routinely use excessive force in thousands upon thousands (but not all) interactions they have with black men.

It has been open season on black men from the white dominant society from the first time they arrived in 1619 as slaves in Jamestown, Virginia. This is NOT a question of force used to apprehend dangerous criminals, who in truth do exist among citizens of all colors and backgrounds.

The salient point to be made here is that these acts plainly violate both their Constitutional rights as citizens, and more important still, the human rights extended to us all by our Creator.

Thomas Martin Saturday
for Struggles for Justice
“Speaking for the Voiceless, Protecting the Vulnerable”


Posted in Essays, National Affairs with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 4, 2014 by thomassobottke


The legislative branch of the Federal Government of the United States no longer legislates. Paying absolutely no attention to policy differences or ideology, let’s examine the actual situation as it is.

Democrats in the U.S. Senate, where they have the majority, do block some bills sent to them by the Republican controlled House of Representatives. That obstructs some legislation. Oddly, there are a mere handful of proposed bills to block in the first place by Democrats, because Republicans who control what even comes up for a vote in the House legislate so little. There are few bills sent to the Senate for anybody to pass, or reject. Little if anything goes to President Obama for him to sign into law or veto.

50 times they were measures repealing the signature legislation of this century for President Obama and the Democrats, the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Once enacted into law, and upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States, such a fundamental policy decision by the majority party can be expected to be blocked by a party so wedded to it as a core policy.

President Obama has contributed to this situation by not continuing to try to work with members of the opposing party, even though demonstrably they never will work with him for fear of giving him a so called “victory.” What about the traditional notion of good legislation, with significant bi-partisan support being a victory for the American people?

Throughout American history, legislators made laws amid the worst sort of partisan wrangling and all sorts of hatreds. But they did legislate simply because the nation’s business had to be done somehow.

In just the last few years, a couple of bills have been blocked by Democrats since they had no bi-partisan support. And they had no bi-partisan support because what Republicans do legislate are legislative bills so beyond what Democrats can compromise on there is no logical or common sense place for bi-partisan support. It is essentially what Republicans want minus anything Democrats want or need to amend in a bill to let it pass. They may indeed have been good and needed policy ideas, but legislators going back to the first Congress of the United States always convinced at least some members of the other party to join them in voting on a given bill.

Civics, political science, and government teachers since the beginning of a free universal and public education in the United States have told students that the heart of legislating in a Congress with at least two opposing parties, something we’ve had since 1794, only comes with the common practice of compromise.

Let’s all say this word together: compromise. But we all know that the Tea Party dominant Republican Party of today has campaigned on the plank that they never will compromise. And to our surprise have acted in near perfect fidelity to what they believe.

Democrats have often since Obama has been president, and Obama himself, have offered serious cuts in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, even Food Stamps and more to get some legislating done. They have tried to compromise beyond what would be wise in legislating from the standpoint of any party. Still, Republicans refuse to do it.

Remember, a number of Republican legislators have stated that compromise means doing precisely what they want. What a curious definition. A new and separate definition of the word is coming or is already in our dictionaries. That new definition is a means of compromise that is the exact polar opposite to all previous definitions of compromise.

We must remember, however we feel about ideology or policy that the Bush Administration told reporters they were about creating an entirely new reality of their own making. Apparently it is succeeding.

Since the Republicans control the lower house, the House of Representatives, where under our Constitution all spending bills begin, they have wrested huge cuts in the growth of Federal spending. At this time our Federal spending is falling at the fastest rate since 1950. That’s due to threats both actual and not realized to shut the government down, or to let us refuse to pay our bills as a government, threatening to make our monetary system a panic zone.

Last year, Republicans shut the government down for a few weeks, costing taxpayers $24 Billion to do it, and making all Americans angry and disgusted with that Congress.

Yet Democrats tried to stop it, but did not have the votes in the House to stop Republicans using the denial of the public purse to force our government to shut down for lack of resources to simply keep it going.

We’d here like to have a real and actual equivalency between our two major parties so we are not at each other’s throats pointing fingers and could say “a pox on both your houses.” But doing so creates a distinct false equivalency that is essentially finding equivalent behaviors and intentions when those equivalencies are not present at all, and the odd, contrary, and unproductive behavior is unfortunately all Republican.

Democrats in Congress and the Administration have fought Republican efforts to close the government down, and failed due to Republicans insistence to not fund our government and force a shutdown. Republicans were going to fail to increase the debt limit and allow default on our nation’s debts that could spark a world economic collapse. With some spending cuts they stepped back from the precipice of collapse. They have not backed off on doing it again. Some have not stopped talking about it.

This past week, our Congress entered such a new low that it must be described the way UFOs and not yet proved but suspected laws of physics we do not understand are defined, resulting in what is scientifically known as High Strangeness.

This is political and government high strangeness.

President Obama in a Friday press conference last week called it “Republicans fighting Republicans.” We all know that the Republican Speaker of the House put a bill up to be put on the floor that would spend just $659 million, two thirds of which were law enforcement funds further militarizing the border. One third were for more judges and humanitarian aid to little children and parents who have largely fled violence where their deaths were likely, along with child trafficking, and rape for young women from these Central American countries. A separate law for Mexico just deports those undocumented persons who come across our border against our laws.

Then, Ted Cruz, a Republican Senator pulled together 12 to 15 of the most extreme Tea Party members of the Republican caucus in the House of Representatives. They let it be known that they would not support what in point of fact was a Republican bill that Democrats were ready to reluctantly support with a minority of House Democrats making easy passage. This is not the final immigration bill, but a temporary emergency one that Republicans said is a crisis on our border demanding immediate action.

That bill was at the last moment withdrawn, because a significant minority of Republicans did not support the bill, as it was not reactionary enough. The Republicans in Congress had all members stay an extra day and passed a second bill and a third that were more extreme, and the second not even directed at the current crisis, but at long time immigration policy they disagree with the President about. It is so extreme that no responsible Democrat can compromise enough to vote for it. They went home for a month and have very few days to legislate anything upon their return.

Then, to make the Republican High Strangeness even more prominent, they blamed the President for not acting strongly enough, with John Boehner the recognized Republican House spokesman, however little power he has, demanding the President use strong executive action to do what the Congress failed to do. Boehner had a couple of days earlier brought the House to pass legislation that sues the President for taking precisely this sort of executive action; two absolutely incompatible actions.

Today, Republicans are saying that if the President acts by executive order to protect these defenseless children and care for them or allow people who have been working here for many years to merely get a work permit, they will impeach him for taking executive action they demand at one and the same time.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is Republican High Strangeness.

The House of Representatives is controlled by Republicans. No one can deny that fact. And they refuse to compromise under the long accepted definition of this human behavior. Without bills to consider, the Senate cannot pass bills.

And, where the Senate has passed bi-partisan legislation on things such as a comprehensive immigration bill House leaders, Republicans, refuse to form a conference committee to iron out what commonly are partisan and policy differences in the legislation that reasonably must be addressed. Oh. Republicans have refused to this point to pass a companion House bill that could make a conference committee possible. Boehner has refused to even put such a proposition to a vote. Blaming Democrats here would be the worst sort of false equivalency.

How can President Obama sign legislation when it does not pass both houses of Congress? He cannot. Our Constitution does not give him the Legislative Power. However actions within his authority under the Constitution of the United States can be undertaken and in point of fact have been undertaken by every single previous president in our history. These are a huge set of legally supported actions known as Executive Orders. These things rarely can do enough to solve problems that only legislation signed into law by the President can solve. But Presidents have this means of dealing with problems Congress refuses to fix open to them.

The Chief Executive of the United States, the President, has the power to use the military prior to Congress declaring war when foreign powers attack us or threaten to. Presidents must report to Congress, bringing that fact to Congress under the War Powers Act of 1973. Presidents can and are actually tasked with protecting our national security in not just military ways, but in regard to any threats to our peace, and the personal security of our citizens. Our current President is presently tasked with enforcing a 2008 law guaranteeing legal due process for these children. The United States is a signatory to two conventions protecting the human rights of migrants seeking asylum. These two conventions were approved by a two thirds majority of the U.S. Senate, giving them the force of law. The recent Republican bills would have repealed that law if passed.

That is where we are now with the refusal of Congress, undertaken by Republicans,to act.

High Strangeness indeed. Any UFO’s over the Capitol Building?

Thomas Martin Saturday
For Struggles for Justice
“Speaking for the Voiceless, Protecting the Vulnerable”


Posted in Essays, The Faith Community with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 26, 2014 by thomassobottke

Holy Nature Spot One






The very last injunction, the very last words uttered by Jesus Christ before his promised return was “Love one another.” Allah is above all merciful and compassionate and does not look kindly on those, who themselves, are not. Yaweh may have acted with mighty power to protect and permit the people of Israel to prosper in the Promised Land, but as their holy scriptures demonstrate historically; the human agency of their governments have always strayed from what their prophets demanded of them on behalf of their God.

More startling still is the realization that all three peoples of the Book worship as monotheists one, all powerful, all encompassing, and eternal Supreme Being. That Supreme Being may be revealed to these three peoples in different aspects, at different times, but with a common purpose. That purpose is to acknowledge and act in concert with God’s injunctions (fear of God/submission to God or Allah). Logically, we cannot have three gods who all have these core characteristics. The fact that the God spoken of here is linked by the holy books of all three faiths gives but little escape to those intent on fear, ignorance, hate, violence, sectarianism, and feigned ignorance of that God. None of them can be lifting up their god against the others, since factually the scriptures linking all three faiths have a common origin.

Even those great faiths of the East that include multiple godheads all work toward a common plane of existence that bears a striking resemblance to the holy walk of the great monotheistic faiths.

Humanists without religious faith often place love, compassion, mercy, and cooperation among all of humanity very close to their souls. The best humanistic philosophy recognizes plainly that human beings are mortal, and cannot then be the ultimate arbiters of their place in the cosmos. That cosmic perspective tells us that if nothing else, the cosmic accident of the big bang, time, and space are not our doing at all. How can anybody place themselves ahead of either God or creation confirmed through science, or both?

The love power is a form of soft power with the greatest ability to influence, and most particularly, to undermine hard, military, sectarian, hate-filled, earthly, hegemonic power.

Were the Israelis to place their greatest efforts into looking first as God would upon the Palestinians, and acting as God most wants to do through us, they would have to give Palestinians, as themselves, autonomy, dignity, respect, love, and their full cooperation and kindness, even in the face of evil that is determined to counter such behavior with maddening intensity.

No human being is required to sit idly by while their children or family are killed by evil, however employed. But this too is not either love power or ethical behavior if it is anything that strikes out or strikes back in anger.

Love power makes shooting down passenger planes in Ukraine, killing or imprisoning the ethnic Russians there, or the killing in the name of statehood in the Middle East or just plain power there in any way morally ethical. Wars by definition are immoral acts by depraved groups of humans.

Religious faiths manifestly prohibit in their walk with, or to God, or as an expression of the greatest of human instincts that are of a higher moral purpose, the sort of equally manifest evils of human agency without reflection, humility, repentance, and true faith. The ultimate direction of human behavior cannot be anything but love, compassion, mercy, kindness. These things can NEVER comport with war and hatred.

Killing or harming others must be restricted to the direct intervention of a mother to protect a child in the face of a danger or human agency setting out to destroy or cut short that life. That sort of violence is not retributive; it is not vengeful, but simply actual in the present moment of the danger to our fellow human beings, and family members.

Want to undermine Hamas? Respond to Palestinians in love and peace, and watch Hamas crumble into nothing. The first instinct of humans with free will is to reach for the tools of killing and the means to hate first. What if there was a great paradigm shift to its polar opposite? Evil, however seemingly powerful, has never been able, and never will be able to ultimately stand against both faith-driven and the humanist perspectives employing love, kindness, compassion, and mercy to every single living thing on this Earth.

Want to make Putin and his egotistic leadership of Russia disintegrate? Act otherwise, and make this plain somehow to the Russian people. The very basis for his popularity and influence will be no more. If we react with hate, and traditional military threatening power we only feed the beast

Send the message to this bully that he is not worth the powder, but that if he insists on killing innocents we will in defense, rise to stop him. But more important still, we will not strike back at his people in his homeland to do it.

Love power is the ultimate weapon we can employ to undermine the traditional powers employed by human agency since the beginning of recorded history. The great moral teacher Gandhi has shown us how the weak, the oppressed, the weary, and the hopeless can defeat a great enemy every time. How long could Israel stand against a great love and peace Intifada thrust at them by the Palestinians? How even could the United States stand against such love power?

What would happen if either the Palestinians or Israelis went to a soft power love strategy as their primary means of dealing with their neighbors? Even if some paid the ultimate price to give full witness to this undermining, and peaceful means of defeating evil, it would not be long until the rest of humanity might wake up to something as yet unborn to us. That love power shift, must be our common destiny if this humanity is to survive at all.

Thomas Martin Saturday
For Struggles for Justice
“Speaking for the Voiceless, Protecting the Vulnerable”

Worst Since World War II? Hardly. Obama faces Unique Political Environment in a Fractured, Dangerous, and Unresponsive World by Thomas Martin Satruday

Posted in Essays, Foreign Policy, National Affairs with tags , , , , , , , on July 15, 2014 by thomassobottke


Historians looking back on the Presidency of Barack Obama will be forced to take full account of the absolutely unique political environment he’s had to contend with. A Ph.D. in American History led me to ponder the thesis that Obama is the worst president since World War II. Just being a professional historian doesn’t make any of us right. But we do have a good deal of context for such an evaluation that few Americans have. In that respect our judgments are more sound and grounded on the historical record.

We know much about all our presidents, whatever our politics, and so too we grasp more fully anything that is unprecedented. Lincoln faced everything Obama did. Until Union victory, and his martyred death, he was thought a decent man but not at all effective doing anything. The 1864 butchery on the battlefield was such that Lincoln himself wrote he did not think he would be re-elected as late as the end of August that year.

He was thoroughly despised by a vast majority of Americans North and South, until Union victory and his martyred death intervened in 1865. Without it, he’d be somewhere close to James Buchanan, but worse, since he in that place, would have failed to preserve the Union, with no emancipation for blacks, and being simply among those most responsible for so much killing.

That kind of unique environment now, is centered on the very serious challenges to Obama’s very legitimacy to simply hold the office he’s been elected to twice in strict accord with our Constitution, and republican democracy.

Presidents since World War II, have all faced strong censure by political opponents. But the men who held the office were respected for the office they held. That’s not been true with Barack Obama. And evaluating his legacy of achievement is complicated by unprecedented legislative political obstruction, racial animus, and the hyper-polarization so central to the last five years, and no doubt for a number of years to come.

History does not favor strict partisanship when writing it to explain and enlarge our understanding of our collective past as a people. But all of us in this field have to look at the reality of that past, and try to tell the story of the significant currents of change and those things which most characterized an era that we find in document based primary research.

So here is what I would take as my starting point. This political polarization, legislative obstruction, and the discomfort among many Americans with a black man in the White House have acted and shaped the Obama presidency the most. And nearly all of this is coming from Republican conservatives via something that did not exist in so organized a fashion within that political party prior to the Obama presidency; The Tea Party.

The split within the Republican Party, its move decidedly to the right of where it had been, and the battle lines between a great deal of social change pushed by Democrats, recognizing the movement of the great majority of Americans to the left on social issues have been large factors too.

This is that unique political environment I started with. The following grading out of President Obama is based on where we are at present, and the certainty that this will change somewhat in the generation that follows in ways we cannot predict.

Foreign Policy: Grade C+
President Obama made two very difficult decisions on two wars that were both going badly, and that he opposed and did not start. They show courage, and the recognition it was not in our foreign policy interest to stay as imperial masters in Iraq, and Afghanistan any longer. The previous administration made huge mistakes in this region that Obama inherited, and that only now both political scientists and diplomatic historians are beginning to see have no easy answers.

The President already has two related achievements, getting Osama bin Laden, and capturing the key mastermind behind the Benghazi terrorist attack, and bringing him to face American justice. The Bergdahl controversy bears too little information, and it is too much in the present to evaluate at all. And the prevention of another 911 style terrorist incident is a quiet achievement as so much of it exists in the shadow world of the FBI, CIA, and the ubiquitous NSA.

His Libyan mission was superbly successful in helping Libyans remove a dictator that was moving to kill a significant number of citizens, not potentially in the future, but actually in the present. Skillfully bringing in the international community and having few American casualties demonstrated both action and wise restraint.

Congress reined him in on Syria. The emerging cold reality is that there are so many factions in this war that few if any are subject to our control. Truthfully, those people are hostile to us, as the rise of ISIS has shown contemporaneously. Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement are exchanging body blows. But our work diplomatically had in fact done something significant: Assad’s chemical weapons stocks have been removed and destroyed amid all this chaos; quite an achievement.

Nation building in Libya, Egypt, Syria, and both Iraq and Afghanistan all foundered on the failed attempts to put the square peg of American style democracy into the round hole of the Sunni- Shia split across the region, and a clan based tribalism too weak to build any consensus. That covers both the last two presidencies.

The president gets poor marks for being able to fashion a coherent foreign policy that our presidents must communicate for that to be fully effective. We know he wants to end, and has largely ended, the Neo-conservative foreign policy of the Bush-Cheney years. He ended waterboarding and rendition torture overseas. Congress has not given him the necessary authority via obstruction to close Guantanamo. Obama got a distinct dose of reality, in taking on the national security state in a very dangerous world.

Historians will no doubt suggest that Obama too heavily relied on Drone strikes around the world, and raised serious moral and humanitarian issues in the process. Noteworthy here is that a majority of Americans of all political stripes share this view.

Note the unrest, violence, and intractable problems both in what we did in the Middle East, and that nasty realization we may be just coming to, that while we can militarily be dominant in the traditional big power manner via threat and wars, our moral or soft power, and standing as a beacon of democracy trusted worldwide has been perhaps fatally compromised by the previous occupant of the office.

My historical assessment here is that as we learned in Vietnam, that even a superpower has distinct limits in the influence it can exert in a world where leaders, such as Vladimir Putin, can do things we just don’t have the resource leverage at the point of his incursions to counter in Eastern Europe. Iran is not yet resolved. Only still another war, this one very certainly to require the balance of our armed forces for years, and the killing of millions of Iranians and far too many thousands of Americans is patently and distinctly counterproductive.

Other nation states, however small and seemingly vulnerable, have a great deal of leverage our leaders have failed to see since Vietnam. We don’t run the world. It hits back and surprises the best of us. Billions of humans have the potential to become independent historical actors.

China and especially North Korea have followed intractable foreign policies requiring us to make our peace with them as we can, or go to World War Three Obama’s pivot to the Pacific has met with some success, especially with our ally Japan. The world circus of our decade makes any major paradigm shift in policy there hard to sell. There are just too many distractions competing with it.

How any presidential administration could limit the incredible number of conflicts in our world and fully secure our national security simply is an impossibility for the foreseeable future. This is on the way to being the hardest lesson in a generation, demonstrating the effective limits of our influence on events worldwide.

The Economy: Grade A-
The American economy was shattered in the burst of the mortgage bubble speculation of the period from the end of the Clinton years, to just as Obama took office. He used a good deal of his political capital to enlarge emergency measures from the Fed to stabilize the banks and the markets. The huge stimulus package stopped the bleeding, and created a lot of jobs to pull us out of ever greater job loss in just the first six to eight months. The auto industry bail out, while distasteful to most Americans, actually did a lot of good. An industry was saved.

There have been 56 months of job growth, GDP is up, the stock market is the highest it’s even been.

President Obama then brought to Congress a ten bill package to improve infrastructure, improve education and research, to help create more jobs and make us more competitive. Startling is the fact that he offered ten measures that in various forms had been championed the year or two before by the opposing party. He carefully avoided a lot of expansion in the welfare state.

Obstruction in a Congress just taken over by a Republican majority permitted them to vote down everything and complain about the President’s lack of success doing these things. This is an example of where obstruction seriously impedes a president’s success. Obama has skillfully used the “bully pulpit” to argue for middle class Americans hit hard by the economic meltdown just as Bush left office, and in a period of marked income inequality, where wages have been stagnant or dropping for thirty years.

Cooperation with Congress to Legislate and Enforce Newly Passed Legislation: Grade C+

President Obama will have historians saying he lost a lot of opportunity to work with Republicans those golden first two years of his presidency. It was not political hostility, or arrogance, but a professorial and detached involvement with the hard work with both houses of Congress successful legislation requires. He sat there and waited for the Congress to act. Would more prodding and close involvement in the legislative process given him more legislative success? My best assessment right now would be his relationship with John Boehner has been a disaster and yes, for a few measures that were needed. The rest, just total obstruction from Republicans at a level we’ve never seen in our history until now. That is both an unprecedented and absolutely unique environment under which Obama has struggled to operate. President’s, whatever we may think of their policy objectives, have little legislative authority beyond the veto, and executive orders within the existing budget.

Pulling him up from complete failure is the documented historical fact that key Republican leaders met in Washington D.C. on the very day he was inaugurated to both undermine the Obama presidency, and block nearly everything he might try to do. Since then, this has been the least productive legislative Congress in our nation’s entire history. While a few bills have been obstructed by Democrats in the Senate, the level of obstruction in the newly formed Republican dominated Congress since January of 2011 has done little or nothing to address the nation’s clearly identified problems, no matter what party or policies were supported in the House. The common observation that the obstruction and almost criminal inaction has left a full third of our Federal government fully dysfunctional is accurate.. The government shutdown of a year ago had nothing to do with Obama.

The ongoing intra-party feuding between Establishment and Tea Party Republicans has bordered on madness, to say nothing about being on the edge of treasonous.. That level of self-inflicted dysfunction must be laid in future at the very doorstep of Republican members of Congress, in the Boehner led House of Representatives. Historians will treat them about as harshly as you can

Obama has the Lilly Ledbetter Equal Pay Act, Obamacare just now emerging as a huge success story after a horrible roll out, are significant achievements. Obamacare is the most significant piece of legislation in this decade, and perhaps of this generation.

As his two terms continued, the Republicans in the House cannot even get a Transportation Bill that never was the least bit controversial done. Immigration Reform got distinctly bi-partisan support in the Senate, where the legislation was the product of real contributions from all parties. In the House, the Speaker has not called it up for a vote, though vote counters in that body say a minority of Republicans with nearly universal Democratic backing would pass it today.

How can a president be effective, when the Congress refuses to meet its most basic responsibilities? As a historian, this would provide some great research material for a book on Obama, or this decade in our history. There is no equivalency in the offense committed here. It’s substantially with the Republicans, and the fact of it supersedes any competent historian’s ability to shape the story, or spin it somehow to fit a given scholar’s predilections as to what is best. This just is.

Obama’s principled and strong stand for the middle class, saving the safety net, and pushing raising of the minimum wage over a glacial level of activity in the legislative, and distinctly not the executive, has to lead any competent chronicler of the past to give the President high marks for creative executive actions all done within the Constitution, save one on recess appointments done when Congress was decided to be in session, with a ruling of the Supreme Court that drew the line there. The lengthening historical record shows Obama doing by executive order, limited law making we’ve seen since the beginning, all the way back to George Washington providing some of the needed action.

Civil Rights and Social Change: Grade B+
Obama’s rhetorical and moral positions for protecting women’s access to healthcare, particular reproductive healthcare, and his welcome and courageous announcement he was now openly supporting the LGBT community, ending don’t ask, don’t tell in the military, are of distinct importance to the evaluation of what will certainly be a successful president. He’s known just when to move with the American public here, demonstrating a deft set of pivots at just the right moments, mobilizing public support at a key time for what is now seen already, as what a vast majority of Americans in both parties support has been a distinct success.

His advocacy of protecting voting rights in America, as they are under the most determined attack since 1964 and 1965, when they were enacted, has been and will be revelatory of where this man’s moral compass has taken him.

Attorney General Eric Holder’s strong action in preserving perhaps the most important human element in preserving our democracy has yet to bear fruit, but he’s taken the right course at the behest of the President.

The environment and intense polarization is especially notable here. Republican core constituencies have been left behind by the vast majority of Americans of all colors, getting younger and more influential in moving this nation away from old positions, with declining support that puts Obama distinctly on the right side of history. Race relations are a key part of the disgust for this black man, with both a white Caucasian Anglo-Saxon and Kenyan black African ancestral background.

The historical record shows he is a native born American as the Constitution requires: end of debate.

Fundamentally, we are looking at a successful presidency. One of a number of common yardsticks is his winning two terms as opposed to one term in office.

Based on this and so much more analysis to date, Barack Obama is NOT the worst president since World War II. That thesis lacks the support to be accepted as valid. These assertions just don’t align with what we already know and are likely to see, as the sample size of five years plus is large enough to make a more than educated and even an informed judgment.

Where I am in evaluating presidents since World War II, minus a set ideology, produces this assessment, as this liberal progressive historian will now demonstrate party and ideology little affect the rankings. We all have our favorites and least favorite failures and these may vary somewhat among historians.

Here are the rankings from the top to the bottom as reflected by where I am now in evaluating Post World War II presidents.

1) Dwight David Eisenhower
2) Harry S. Truman
3) William Jefferson Clinton
4) Ronald Wilson Reagan
5) John F. Kennedy
6) Lyndon Baines Johnson
7) Barack Hussein Obama
8) George Herbert Walker Bush (Poppy Bush)
9) Gerald R. Ford
10) James Earl Carter
11) Richard Millhouse Nixon
12) George W. Bush (The Younger)

To recover some hope here for the lowly rated, neither Nixon, nor the second Bush are the worst presidents ever. Those honors go to James Buchanan and Warren G. Harding. The recent Bush presidency is above those two, with Nixon just above that.

Subject to Change over Time: (Stay Tuned)
Struggles for Justice
“Speaking for the Voiceless, Protecting the Vulnerable”

Governor Walker’s State Health Plan a Failure: Public Interest Groups Highlight Need for Medicaid Expansion in Wisconsin

Posted in Community and Citizen Action, National Affairs, Race with tags , , , , , , , , on July 10, 2014 by thomassobottke


The Black Health Coalition and Citizens United, along with other public interest groups held a press conference in Milwaukee today to highlight Walker’s already failed health care strategy, as contrasted with the distinct advantages in accepting Obamacare Medicaid Expansion here. Milwaukee County and four other Wisconsin counties already will give their voters an opportunity to weigh in on Medicaid Expansion and Badgercare Expansion in Wisconsin.

20 more counties in the state are considering putting the same referendum on their county ballots this fall. “This gives voters in these counties a chance to send a strong message to their politicians about how they feel about Walker’s decision on Medicaid and Badgercare,” said Robert Craig of Wisconsin Citizens United.

Speakers at the press conference from groups as diverse as those combatting diabetes in the State, supporting pro-active healthcare for women to have better outcomes with breast cancer, and a representative of the American College of Associated Physicians all argued for the Governor’s acceptance of Medicaid Expansion under the Health Care Affordability Act, commonly known as Obamacare. Scott Walker and the Republican majority in the State Legislature have chosen not to accept the money and continue to pursue a State solution crafted by Walker.

Both the Black Health Coalition and Citizens United are non-profit organizations, Craig added, and they only desire the legislature and Governor to do right by those citizens who qualify for aid under Obamacare along with a more sensibly modified Badgercare coverage.

Struggles for Justice notes just two mind blowing dollars and cents facts even the most Obama hating, Tea Party loving, or indifferent Wisconsin citizen ought to pay attention to.

Governor Scott Walker passed a tax bill that gave the average Wisconsin resident taxpayer a much appreciated $110 to $120 tax cut this past year. Yet, by making an affirmative decision NOT to accept Medicaid money under the Health Care Affordability Act, the average taxpayer is paying an average of $250.00 more each year for their private healthcare coverage. In effect, those same people are $130.00 behind the curve AFTER the tax cut provided by Walker and the Wisconsin State Legislature.

With the Medicaid Expansion money, Walker could give all his constituents that benefit on the private insurance market in Wisconsin, yet he hasn’t done that, and to this date has shown no inclination to do it. With more Medicaid money, health insurance premiums under private health plans will drop, and the higher health insurance premium cost largely disappears altogether. There is no ideology here, just the naked self-interest of our State’s taxpayers.

Second, without the Medicaid Expansion money from the Federal Government, that would pick up the cost of all of it to start, and in out years always pays more than the lion’s share of the cost, it makes little sense to continue to refuse the money. It’s the law, and the Federal Government is bound by Obamacare to provide it if a State asks for it. Wisconsin has said NO.

An additional $271 million dollar budget deficit under Walker’s present plan will force the Legislature to either cut another $271 million from an already squeaky tight and inadequate State biennial budget, or to saddle the most tax sensitive, and largely white conservative constituents of Walker, and by extension every Wisconsin taxpayer, to come up with the shortfall.

Why the hell, we say, would even the most mean-spirited, conservative, Obamacare hating voters reject that? It makes no sense at all when viewed from their economic self-interest, or anybody’s self-interest.

We all should remember that Wisconsin has always had a net deficit when it comes to Federal tax money going to Washington, and Federal largesse coming back to Wisconsin. We don’t have any really significant military bases, or beyond the minimum Federal courthouses and Federal agencies present here. As bad as poverty is among the impoverished here, we just don’t get our money’s worth; our share of the Federal Government’s aid we all already have paid for.

For example, Rick Perry’s Texas Miracle is really grounded upon the more than $22 billion Texas gets for its State coffers each and every year through the Federal Government. What if Wisconsin as a smaller per-capita size state got its share of all this? What would say $2 Billion more dollars to spend here do for the biennial State budget, and tax rates? It would be the Wisconsin Miracle.

Alas, our State’s financial and fiscal, or put simply economic profile, does not allow for that. But Medicaid Expansion is something to make up some of what the Federal Government owes us.

NOW THE HUMAN SIDE OF THE EQUATION: To appease the States’ economically compromised citizens and their advocates Walker has extended Badgercare to 82,000 more people. He is to be applauded for that. But wait, to pay for it he is keeping another 77,000 people cut off from State aid, who are living just over the poverty level as single individuals, and making them ineligible for both Medicaid and Badgercare.

These people have no hope of getting significant health insurance on the private market either. People are falling through wide crevices already present in the Governor’s affirmative decision NOT to take the Obamacare Medicaid money that is already ours to take. This is as one speaker said “just insane.” Struggles for Justice couldn’t have put it any better.

Having dozens of Wisconsin Counties hold referenda on the Medicaid Expansion money, and its impact on Badgercare, will send a strong message to all our State’s politicians that a different course from that of the Governor is badly needed.

And it IS badly needed. Tens of thousands and perhaps as many as a hundred thousand Wisconsin residents are receiving badly inadequate health care, leading to equally bad health outcomes. This too, costs the State and our Wisconsin hospitals more money, making it very hard to serve the public, to remain viable in the marketplace, and in the end, increasing rather than decreasing the cost of healthcare in Wisconsin.

We thank the Black Health Coalition and Citizens United, along with so many other groups promoting better healthcare for all our citizens, for what they said at the Black Health Coalition’s jointly held press conference at 3020 Vliet Street today, in Milwaukee.

Struggles for Justice
“Speaking for the Voiceless: Protecting the Vulnerable”


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