Petition: Claire O’Brien

(Photo credit: Steve Rhodes)

(Photo credit: Steve Rhodes)

Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

-Frederick Douglass

I met Claire O’Brien through her blog, Eléctrica in the Desert, and have had the privilege of corresponding with her and learning of the targeted attacks she experienced due to her refusal to reveal a confidential source during a racially and politically divisive murder trial in Dodge City, Kansas. I shared her story in a recent post, That’s how it goes. The following article by Les Anderson summarizes in greater detail what transpired in Dodge City: Without reporter’s shield laws, who would be willing to speak up?, but is still a partial chronology which omits the vital issue of Lucy Dalglish, former director of the Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press, lying to and about Claire.

Many readers of this blog are familiar with the neoliberal assault on the public spaces of education and journalism. The suppression of a reporter’s First Amendment rights to free speech is predicated on the ability to protect confidential sources. Without this assurance, journalists would be at an extreme disadvantage when it comes to gathering accurate, independent information and reporting it to the public. Fewer concerned citizens would be willing to come forward with critical information needed to face down oppressive corporations, institutions and individuals acting in opposition to the public’s interests. In journalism, as in most professions, one’s reputation is everything. Along with her livelihood, this is what the career politicos took from Claire…her name. If I could beg you to act on Claire’s behalf I would, so consider me on my knees. Claire is a sister, our sister, in the struggle.

__________________

You can send the following petition into an email to Tony Mauro (TMauro@alm.com), then-president of the RCFP Steering Committee, who was present when Lucy Dalglish admitted to Claire that she lied about Claire to the Associated Press. Please share this petition as widely as you possibly can, using every social media outlet at your disposal. Claire has been blackballed from working for four years now and is dependent on public assistance for survival:

TO: Mr. Tony Mauro, U.S. Supreme court reporter, American Law Review

Your silence regarding the prolonged attack on reporter Claire O’Brien following her role in the Dodge city murder trial of Samuel Bonilla is a damaging weapon, a contemptible insult, an abuse of power and a daily choice.  As the president of the Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press’ steering committee, you were entrusted with the simple and vital task of defending reporters from being forced to act as an arm of law enforcement.  In other words, you were responsible for defending the First Amendment right of a free press to protect the identity of confidential sources – not testify about them to the state. You weren’t authorized to assist the RCFP’s powerful director in lying to truthful reporters who face criminal charges, incarceration, and steep fines. The bylaws you were bound to uphold did not allow the RCFP to discriminate against such reporters based on personal opinions, likes and dislikes, professional status, rumor, social bias, gossip, disability issues, the influence of corporate counsel, or input gleaned from a reporter’s enemies. Anyone can be destroyed by influential media interests and attorneys, a fact of which you are very keenly aware.
You were present via an April 21, 2010 conference call in which Dalglish admitted having lied to Claire O’Brien, telling her that Claire’s report of GateHouse Media’s threats were unfounded – after GateHouse itself had confirmed them to Dalglish! You knew that Dalglish defamed Claire to the Associated Press with damaging fabrications two days later, thereby destroying her credibility and reputation, while backing the lies of a ruthless corporation. Further, you refused to admit that Claire had any right to know the reason for Dalglish’s outrageous attack on her, nor to issue a press release restoring her professional name. What you eventually agreed to issue, four months after Daglish’s lies went out on the AP’s national wire and three months after O’Brien had been fired and blacklisted with no notice or severance pay, was a weak, self-serving piece of PR that made no mention of the fact that Dalglish had lied to O’Brien, lied about her, lied to the public, and censored an important news story.
Since then, Dalglish has used her influence to defame Claire O’Brien on a national level. Every opportunity to publicize the truth, every potential supporter, every First Amendment nonprofit’s legal staff, and every job offer have been corrupted by a narrative constructed by Dalglish and disseminated via the networks of influence available to her.
You have treated Claire’s  humanity and work like a toxic waste dump, destroying her life in the service of power and caused her needless trauma and suffering. You have betrayed  the most important standards of your profession, thumbed your nose at democracy, and revealed a disrespect for the American people that calls into question your ethical qualifications re. your own job of reporting the truth to the public. If you continue to ignore the pleas for justice that have been sent to you for several years, this issue will reach the American people. If you will not answer to Claire, nor to us, you will be answering to them.
We urge you to – finally – do the right thing. Don’t allow this to become your legacy, Mr. Mauro. Step forward to reclaim the decency and courage of journalism’s traditions. You will discover that the truth will protect you,  and that your action will  free others to follow.

*Please copy your email to the following people, each of whom played a role in her ongoing persecution and can help to put pressure for others to act on Claire’s behalf:

Laura Anderson Wright <landerso@umd.edu> Peter Weiler <pweiler@umd.edu> Charlie Savage <charlie.savage@gmail.com>
Charles Ogletree <ogletree@law.harvard.edu> David Cuillier <cuillier@email.arizona.edu>
Claire O’Brien <claireobrien23@gmail.com>
______________________

Thank you for your support and solidarity with Claire in the suffering she has endured to preserve her integrity as a journalist and on behalf of the profession itself. Every voice is needed in the struggle. Feel free to add anybody and everybody that you think might be interested in taking up Claire’s cause. Any questions regarding this petition or for more information on Claire’s case should contact Claire directly at: claireobrien23@gmail.com

Posted in Social Justice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 29 Comments

The imperial city

Dorothy meets the Cowardly Lion, from The Wond...

(Photo credit: Wikimedia)

Wizard of Oz: “As for you, my galvanized friend, you want a heart. You don’t know how lucky you are not to have one. Hearts will never be practical until they can be made unbreakable.”

Tin Woodsman: “But I still want one.”

If there is one thing Americans love, it’s their movies and there is, perhaps, no more beloved film in the collective consciousness of duly assimilated America than The Wizard of Oz. Heck, I’m pretty sure the naturalization exam for U.S. citizenship has questions about the Tin Woodman, Cowardly Lion and Scarecrow. The cinematic tour de force also provides a useful allegory for the dark side of the myth of American exceptionalism that has framed national policymaking since it’s inception. With it’s extensive military presence around the globe, America is an unqualified empire and everyone knows empires don’t build themselves. Trying to wrap one’s ahead around the fact that the state’s objectives appear to be so disconnected from the reality that the rest of us are experiencing is an exercise in pretzel logic. While most of us focus our energies on feeding, clothing and housing ourselves and our loved (or tolerated) ones, the state’s primary, overarching interest is in maintaining it’s global supremacy by securing unfettered access to cheap land, labor and natural resources. Every Fortune 500 CEO, cartel head or mafia don knows that one must, on occasion, flex their heart, brains and courage to stay at the top of their respective fields. It is in this context that the motivations which drive the U.S.’s conduct in the theater of operations, we civilians call Earth, can be better grasped. So grab your ruby, red sneakers and prepare to follow the yellow brick road to that glorious, “shining city upon a hill” that our 40th POTUS gave paean to and if the journey becomes too much to bear, well, there’s always Glee.

(Photo credit: Caneles)

(Photo credit: Caneles)

The first companion to join Dorothy in her travels was a literal straw man, the Scarecrow, who lacked brains and “desires above all else to have one.” Well, Scarecrow need look no further than present-day America for those missing neural links. In the past year, the state has conclusively established that is has the “brains” to systematically monitor citizens around the globe without legal constraint. While Glenn Greenwald has been lauded for his role in revealing state secrets on the mass surveillance by the NSA against American citizens, what he’s accomplished may be far less noble. By disseminating the documents “leaked” by Edward Snowden in the manner that he has, Greenwald has, unwittingly or not, accelerated the normalization of the surveillance state and helped to send a chilling message to future whistleblowers that they best be ready to give up everything for the cause. In other words, he’s done the work of the state for the state. It is also suspect that Snowden made public statements distancing himself from Chelsea Manning at the exact same time that Manning’s military trial was beginning in Fort Meade, MD. Snowden/Greenwald effectively took a lot of attention and potential support from Manning’s cause at a time when she needed it most. The access which Snowden/Greenwald have enjoyed from gatekeeper media outlets such as The Guardian, NYT and WaPo is in stark contrast with the treatment Manning has received from the mainstream press. His unholy alliance with backstop billionaire, Pierre Omidyar, only further complicates matters. Meanwhile, nothing and I mean nothing has truly changed in the not-so-sweet land of liberty.

Dorothy’s next encounter in the land of Oz was with the Tin Woodman who had been rebuilt with no heart. The wizards behind the curtains of the American deep state know that every white hat needs to have “heart”. They found in the POTUS a lofty spokesman who accomplishes little while demonstrating to anyone paying attention just how dark the heart of the empire really is. Unmanned aerial vehicles allow for the alleged precision targeting of enemy combatants while the operators of the UAV’s are thousands of miles away in relative safety. Drone warfare is a special form of cowardice that allows the military to shelter the general public from the trauma of it’s own soldiers coming home in body bags while murdering civilian populations overseas with impunity. The fact that U.S. citizens are fair game has had some pundits up in arms while they somehow overlook the more pressing concern that the POTUS has bestowed upon himself the unchecked and unbalanced right to kill any human being at his (and eventually, her) discretion. Law students at Stanford and NYU throughly documented the traumatizing effects that drone strikes have had on civilian populations in Pakistan. From the report, “A teenage victim of a drone strike commented: “America is 15,000 kilometers away from us; God knows what they want from us. We are not rich…We don’t have as much food as they do. God knows what they want from us.” What the state wants is to simply remind any challengers to the throne that it has the heart to kill anything that moves. Nothing more, nothing less.

Occupy Oakland, Nov 2nd General Strike

(Photo credit: quinnums)

The final ally that Dorothy met on her leisurely stroll was the Cowardly Lion. In the jungle, “courage” is often compensated for with brute force and the U.S. once again does not fail to deliver. Of all the military excursions the state has embarked on in the past decades, the Occupy movement has given it one of it’s best chances to show off it’s ripped physique. While citizens congregated across the country in public spaces, the state gave protesters just enough leash to hang them. As if on cue, waves of suppression were unleashed that started in Zucotti park, sparking a ripple effect that culminated in the tear gassing of unarmed, nonviolent protesters in Oakland. It is helpful to keep in mind that the state uses such exercises to calibrate the general public’s tolerance for incremental repression. The findings of their brutal experiment was that, in general, the mainstream public is okey dokey with shows of para-militarized police force against it’s fellow citizens who probably had hygiene issues that needed to be dealt with, anyway. While there have been pockets of protest against the Keystone XL pipeline and other assorted interests, there has been nothing to rival the collective threat that the Occupy movement represented to the corporate state or, specifically, the always-open ATM known as Wall Street. A government that is willing to put the muscle on it’s own citizens clearly isn’t going to have any qualms about dropping the hammer on foreign ones, especially if they’re black, brown and/or Muslim. Once one accepts these fundamental truths, the state’s dystopian actions start to make much more sense.

English: Poster for League for Industrial Demo...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By now, some of you may be thinking, “Damn, Jeff Nguyen, that was depressing. So, what, if anything, can be done about it?” Since you asked, I’d like to return readers’ attentions once more to that paragon of pop culture, rivaled only in embarrassing caricatures by the slavery-as-soap opera known as Gone With the Wind and the Holocaust-as-musical we fondly call The Sound of Music. These films may, in fact, be the real reason they hate us and it was never about our freedoms after all. The friendships Dorothy formed, though hokey and contrived, served to highlight the importance of one thing in confronting the opposition…that is, unity. In Europe, where austerity has formed roots, residents have witnessed the rise of fascism and nationalist groups in Greece, UK, and now Ukraine, as the people become susceptible to looking for someone, anyone, to blame for their suffering. To their detriment, immigrants and minorities have historically played the role of scapegoat all too well. Capitalism survives by forcing each class to turn it’s back on the class below it. As a public school teacher, I have seen the futility of confronting these forces alone. Recognizing the interconnectedness of the struggle and building alliances that transcend borders, ideologies and ethnicities is long overdue. The time is at hand when all people of the non-oppressor class must link arms in solidarity. A mantra which may be fitting here…act locally, think globally. Meanwhile, for as long as the U.S. continues on it’s current trajectory, peace-minded people will find there really is no place like home.

Peace and solidarity to all readers.

Posted in Social Justice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 30 Comments

For the colony

“For the colony and for oppressed ants everywhere!”

-Flik

It’s nice to be reminded that there are people who care and have compassion for their fellow human beings.

From the #NotABugSplat site:

In military slang, Predator drone operators often refer to kills as ‘bug splats’, since viewing the body through a grainy video image gives the sense of an insect being crushed.

To challenge this insensitivity as well as raise awareness of civilian casualties, an artist collective installed a massive portrait facing up in the heavily bombed Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa region of Pakistan, where drone attacks regularly occur. Now, when viewed by a drone camera, what an operator sees on his screen is not an anonymous dot on the landscape, but an innocent child victim’s face.

The group of artists traveled inside KPK province and, with the assistance of highly enthusiastic locals, unrolled the poster amongst mud huts and farms. It is their hope that this will create empathy and introspection amongst drone operators, and will create dialogue amongst policy makers, eventually leading to decisions that will save innocent lives.”

The collective’s direct resistance was inspired by French artist, JR’s, Inside Out Project.

Resource: Living Under Drones: Death, Injury, and Trauma to Civilians From US Drone Practices in Pakistan (Stanford/NYU report)

Peace and solidarity to all readers.

Posted in Social Justice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 51 Comments

Mic check: Nicci Attfield

Searching for Jack: delving beyond political correctness into social inequality.

by Nicci Attfield

Last week, I would have written something completely different for mic check.  Actually, I started something different, but I didn’t finish it.  You see, I was just too angry.  Anger motivates me to do my work quite a lot, and so perhaps it is a good time to share the thoughts and frustrations which have been burning during the course of this week.  What was I angry about?  Political correctness.

Before I begin, it is probably important to say I don’t believe in rude labels or terms, and I don’t believe in mocking people based on ‘race’ or ‘gender’.  If I believed that was okay for a single second, I would leave social justice work immediately and find something else to do. Rude bullying would be a violation of another person’s humanity, and I don’t believe in that.

However, I don’t think it is enough to simply be respectful if we want to properly engage with social justice.  Respect may be an important step in the right direction, but it is only a step.  Political correctness is just too timid to get into the true heart of the work. ‘Other’ people (marginalized groups of people) are simply not all about polite terms, and so there is a need to go into the reality of social injustice.

Political correctness is reductionistic, because it forgets the importance of an equal voice and limits people to simple identities. Because it sounds respectful, it leaves those people who use correct language free to go home and feel that no harm has been done. The problem is though, it doesn’t give a great deal of focus to the difficulties marginalized people face. This is because racism, or gender related discrimination (and often these different identities are interlinked as well) is about structural discriminations, which remain invisible, and so seem to be normal.

While I was thinking of how to write this piece, I thought of Steve Pemberton in Whitechapel.  If you haven’t watched Whitechapel, it is, in short, a detective program with the first series dedicated to a hunt for a copycat Ripper. Pemberton’s character Ed Bucan, runs a theatrical/historical tour, speaking about ‘Jack’.  He later explains how Jack would walk the streets in disguise, shifting and changing his appearance, only to commit his terrible acts of killing.

Jack had been observed by witnesses, but he seemed normal. In order to identify Jack, Detective Inspector Joseph Chandler gives his version of who the ripper really was, saying he’d been interviewed by the police as a witness.  Jack remained in disguise, so he was not revealed.
In the television program, Jack returns in the form of a copy cat killer.  History repeats itself, remaining unresolved, and DI Chandler consults a ripperologist in order to understand how the past is shaping the present.  The specters of history remain.  It is only by exploring the way the man, “Jack” shifts and changes, passing for normal, that the team of detectives are able to identify him and stop him from killing his final choice of woman, and therefore he choses instead to end his own life.

Social justice work is different to political correctness because it searches for Jack rather than being kind to the murdered victims. It seeks to unbury the social beliefs and histories.  This means acknowledging how they shape the present, killing off opportunities or possibilities for people who they discriminate against.  It’s really about doing a case by case investigation, exploring what lies beneath, and the silent spaces or perspectives which remain suppressed, with the aim of allowing them to be spoken. This increases our awareness or insight into how the social world manifests itself.

Unlike political correctness, working towards social justice means looking at how the social world is dis-membered.  If we separate off people from history, social identity, and the politics of embodiment, we are not able to really see how the social world impacts upon a person.  How has history or memory been forgotten, or dis-remembered?  What are the narratives and stories which have been buried?  It’s only when we look at the limits or explore the marginalizations that we are able to see how normality maintains itself, and who the social world endorses.

The difficulty with political correctness is the limitations it presents.  If we only see the impacts of ‘race’ for example, as a rude word, or a violent action,  and not the fact that people are more concerned about looking after rhinos than they are about the death of infants based on malnutrition or inadequate health care, then we probably miss the point.  We need to question the social values and beliefs which maintain inequalities.

In a debate I entered into this week, someone tried to explain to me that there isn’t a great deal of point for writers to make normality strange, or raise the social narratives or beliefs which maintain inequality.  “Nobody gets it anyway.” This person said.  “So it’s better to be politically correct.”  I say that with social justice work, it’s important to try and do it anyway, revealing the inequalities which kill of possibilities and raising consciousness about that we consider normal, and the human rights abuses which remain.  I think that the value lies in the effort rather than the result, and we should keep trying, even if that is all that we can do.

__________________

Nicci Attfield can be found typing away furiously at her blog…nicciattfield: Perspectives on the social world. This work is part of the Mic check guest blogger series.

Posted in Social Justice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

That’s how it goes

The Newseum's Five (5) freedoms guaranteed by ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Everybody knows that the boat is leaking  Everybody knows that the captain lied  Everybody got this broken feeling  Like their father or their dog just died.”

-Leonard Cohen

This coming weekend, I will be publishing a contribution to the Mic check guest blogger series from Claire O’Brien, whom I met through our interactions at her exceptional blog, Eléctrica in the Desert. Journalism is a profession that, in my not so humble opinion, falls under the category of “higher calling”, as it is entrusted with the widely coined mandate to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” In this context, Claire is an honorable reporter whose story serves as a reminder that following one’s conscience may come at a price. I would like to share with readers the extraordinary attack that was coordinated against her in the midst of a racially and politically divisive murder trial several years ago that served to derail her career as a journalist. O’Brien worked as a reporter for the Daily Globe in Dodge City, Kansas, at the time a Latino man named Sam Bonilla was on trial and facing decades in jail for killing a local man, which he claimed was in self-defense. Bonilla was a Mexican immigrant who feared he could not get a fair trial and opted to forego a jury trial. In the course of her investigative reporting, she interviewed a source who corroborated Bonilla’s claim that the man he killed when confronted had “a base of support that is well-known for its anti-Hispanic beliefs” and a “supply of semi-automatic weapons.” O’Brien was pressured to reveal her source and when she refused was threatened with contempt by the presiding Judge. As a result of her actions, she was unceremoniously fired from her job at the Daily Globe, which went so far as to change the locks in their offices. She found previously proffered job offers and invitations to appear at journalism conferences withdrawn. This despite the fact that O’Brien won multiple awards for her investigative reporting, helped bring Bonilla’s case into the light of public scrutiny and was instrumental in establishing a Shield Law, in 2010, by the Kansas legislature.

Journalism is not  a crime

(Photo credit: Steve Rhodes)

In Claire O’Brien’s own words:

“I feel it’s important for me to make my position clear, and I want to start sharing it with people. It’s my only path to justice, so I must take it, even if any of my arguments are flawed and/or my efforts still fail. 

I wrack my brain daily re: why no one considers my position worth even investigating. During fierce national threats to our civil liberties, I had acted to derail a state frame up funneling a Latino victim of a Hate Crime to a 40-year prison term. My coverage shone a light on “one of the most repressive and disturbing racist systems” the Mexican American Defense Fund had ever seen. Next, the U.S. Dept. of Justice showed up. No one had ever been made aware of the plantation system exploiting 9,000 slaughterhouse workers and their families in a corner of SW Kansas. Next, I’m hit with a subpeona to reveal the name of a confidential source. The nations premier Free Press organization, founded by four Black reporters 40 years ago because they couldn’t interview a member of the Black Panther Party without getting arrested, sends its biggest big shot, the famous Lucy Dalglish (FYI, the Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press is now a white-dominated organization).  

For the first time in the history of journalism, the DEFENDERS of reporters make a secret alliance with Corporate media and they knock this heavily supported reporter to the ground with a statement to the national press accusing me of lying. 
 
The very worst thing you can do to a reporter. I never got up. Reporters who had flooded me with support disappeared. When I returned to the Daily Globe, the doors were all locked-the locks had been changed. 
 
The Latino community got the message about what happened to reporters who spoke up for them. They were silenced. Every reporter in Kansas also got a message. Big shots who knew the truth said nothing, this reporter was silenced. No one can tell me that wasn’t a sucessful national atttack on the First Amendment.
 
And the American press won’t say a word?”
Dodge City, Kansas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dodge City, Kansas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are the facts of O’Brien’s case and then there are the facts. Dodge City, where Wyatt Earp once served as a deputy marshall, is known for once being a major part of the Chisholm Trail where cattle were driven from Texas to Kansas railcars to be shipped East. During the cattle years, Dodge City became a booming frontier town known for saloons, prostitutes and gun slingers. So it was, some 150 years later, the descendants of the old West collided with the descendants of the new South. In O’Brien, the Latino community found a voice and a champion who was not afraid to stand with them in the face of monumental political and legal pressures. O’Brien paid a heavy price for her solidarity. The most crushing blow was the betrayal at the hands of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. Lucy Dalglish, former director of the RCFP, and now the Dean of the University of Maryland’s College of Journalism, refused to issue a statement in support of O’Brien and, in fact, questioned her refusal to initially appear before the grand jury convened to pressure her into revealing her confidential source and her notes from jailhouse interviews with Bonilla. According to O’Brien, Washington, D.C. reporter Tony Mauro, then-president of the RCFP Steering Committee, was present when Lucy Dalglish admitted to Claire that, even after confirming Claire’s statements as true, she subsequently lied about Claire to the Associated Press. To add literal injury to the insults against her professional reputation, O’Brien was in a car accident shortly after leaving Dodge City jobless and penniless. She clearly ruffled the feathers of the preening peacocks found in every American city for whom the status quo is the guarantor of the power and privilege they have become accustomed to wielding. If an innocent Latino man is imprisoned for decades for standing his ground against white supremacists, well, apparently the bell tolled for he.
Ford County Courthouse in Dodge City, Kansas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ford County Courthouse in Dodge City, Kansas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Claire O’Brien:

“And I’m supposed to accept it? What message is the Left sending me? If the Press leaders and the corporate media can stamp out rank and file reporters at will, that means their tens of millions of the unimportant readers have just had their First Amendment access to a free press shattered.

And the American public won’t get to weigh in because the American public will never know.
 
One Latino man’s life was at stake (he was 40, and was headed for a 40-year sentence) and another had risked reprisal from the Aryan Brotherhood on the basis of my word, which I have never broken.
 
When I stepped forward to take a big risk, I did not think I was standing alone. I have understood that our only power lies with one another since I was eight years old, and that refusing to stand for a worker who acted to defend all our rights was not a defensible choice. Personal feelings had no role whatsoever in this ongoing struggle. To deny support in such a circumstance was the strongest public rejection the Left could send.
 
Every day I still wonder: what does it mean to write and speak about oppression and resistance, yet allow someone we know to be singled out and picked off without even a chance to be heard? My beliefs have been shaken to the core, although my blog doesn’t reveal that, because I cannot grasp the idea that I am not considered worthy of the rights we’d all defend for the worst wife and child absuser: the right to present my defense, to be heard, and to be represented by counsel. I risked a charge of felony contempt, 4-6 months in jail, a fine of $1,000 a day, the combined wrath of a power I had no chance of facing alone, the loss of my reputation, the regard of my peers, my way of life, a voiceless community I had been honored to serve, my political honor, my income, my home and my family. One minute I had the only protection the working class may rely on-numbers and publicity. That’s what the Left DOES. I looked up and realized that I was facing that vast corporate power alone.”
Solidarity

(Photo credit: BlueRobot)

I was privileged to meet O’Brien through a series of conversations on our respective blogs. Her story needs to be shared and reshared because it’s our story. The implications of her legal case do not exist in a vacuum but are part of a much larger pattern of organized censorship and controlled discourse engineered by the corporate media and political interests they serve, with the ever present currents of systemic racism bubbling just underneath the surface. I must confess that while I have known superficially of the circumstances of Claire’s case, I failed to absorb the full impact of the suffering she has experienced and the toll it has taken. In America, where the global hunger games masked as austerity are taking effect, it is essential that we stand together rather than allow ourselves to continue to be divided. Europe is seeing a rise in fascist ideologies in Greece and other countries hard hit by austerity as people seek someone, anyone, to blame. As the corporate media act as gatekeepers of knowledge on behalf of their capos in lower Manhattan and the Beltway, the American public is kept on a short leash and information is doled out on a strictly “need to know” basis. The controlling of the discourse is by definition the managing of dissent. As Paulo Freire cautioned, “If the structure does not permit dialogue the structure must be changed.” As long as the ruling class is the one telling the stories, their straw narratives will continue to be spun into gold. If we turn our backs on the Claire O’Brien’s among us, who will be there to speak up when they come for us? Will the way that it has always gone continue to be the way it always goes?
______________________________

Update: If there’s a journalist whose editor won’t kill the story, I have a ton of evidence and info. You should know that Jeremy Peters at the N.Y. Times said he was ready to write it, but they killed it, and that Charlie Savage knew of the problems I was having with GateHouse Media three months before anyone else did, and has remained silent.  Calvin Trillin wrote a piece in the New Yorker, and admitted to me right before his May 10, 2010 story that he’d been informed of my innocence before arriving in Dodge City. All I’m saying is, be prepared to get your story killed. I don’t know how to express how much any support will mean to me. Frankly, I have been devastated. Any blogger could make a huge difference by urging every connection they have to re-blog and tweet and re-tweet, demanding that the U. of Maryland Board of Trustees investigate these allegations. State law actually requires it. Also, the RCFP steering committee – the organization lists the many members, but refuses to provide me with email info for each of them. Reporter Tony Mauro, former president of the RCFP Steering Committee has participated in this cover-up, as has the Society for Professional Journalists – most prominently and ironically David Cullier, national Freedom of Information Act Officer. I have proof that he removed evidence of his actions from his SPJ blog. I am sorry I don’t have the contacts right at my fingertips. I have not been expecting any help for at least two years, and am having myriad tech problems with my laptop. However, it will take me just a couple of days to assemble the crucial links. In the meantime, my blog is packed with posts about this case, and if I can just stay on line long enough to assemble those links without getting kicked off, I will post them ASAP. Perhaps Jeff will have time to select at least a few.

I thank anyone who is willing to apply some pressure to these people – and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Yours in struggle,

Claire O’Brien
claireobrien23@gmail.com

________________________________

Postscript: I encourage readers to contact Claire directly to offer support and to consider writing to Amy Goodman at Democracy Now. Perhaps, we can help her story gain a wider audience and see that justice is truly served for a change. Here is the contact info for Democracy Now: http://www.democracynow.org/contact
____________________________

Further links to Claire O’Brien’s legal case:

Kansas reported who exposed racism in Dodge City has new battle to fight

A racially charged crime in Dodge City, Kansas

An open letter to attorney Chris Grenz, Kansas City, from journalist Claire M. O’Brien

All of us or none of us: No one walks alone

Gutless GateHouse puts bottom line ahead of public service

Claire O’Brien at Latina Lista

Governor signs shield law

Daily Globe wins six awards in state contest

Posted in Social Justice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 65 Comments

Revolutionary love

Times are hard and only getting harder. There’s so much trouble and heartache in the world, sometimes, we all need to just tune in to some good music and tune out the noise. It’s been a privilege working on this blog as it’s enabled me to meet so many dynamic and creative people from around the globe. I’ve enjoyed hearing your voices, sharing your stories and kicking down the walls that keep us divided. We are all on the same side in the struggle even if, at times, we’re using different parts of our brain to get there. Props to Moorbey whose blog I came across this uplifting song…a reminder that love is a radical notion in these times of cutthroat capitalism. This one’s for the dreamers and the critical thinkers. Glad I’m not the only one.

Peace and solidarity to all readers.

Posted in Social Justice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Jeffster Awards #24

(Photo credit: skulzstudios)

(Photo credit: skulzstudios)

This is the next installment of an ongoing series at Deconstructing Myths…the Jeffster Awards! This award will be given on an ongoing basis to five outstanding blog posts that caught my wandering eye. There are no strings attached or requirements for reciprocation. I don’t have time to comment on other blogs as much I’d like to so the least I can do is direct readers to some of these outstanding writers, poets, and visual artists. Please direct all feedback (likes, comments, follows) to the blogs themselves. I hope you enjoy these exemplary posts as much as I did. So, without further ado, here are the recipients of this week’s Jeffster Awards…hot off the (Word)presses.

Manifesta at The Bidrohi{Rebel}’s Creed

Idle perspective at high-grade discourse

A Bed of Koala Sheep Wool at More Than Coins

Returning at A Place Called Love

Armando Peraza Enters The Light at Music of Our Heart

_________________

Peace and solidarity to all readers

Posted in Social Justice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Voice of the Oppressed

Jeff Nguyen:

Please read and help a deserving University student and gifted poet earn a scholarship. It only takes a minute and don’t forget to hit the ‘recommend’ button at the end of her essay: https://medium.com/extra-credit/91dbb72d9f30

Originally posted on Revolutionary Tears:

Half way through the night when I can still taste my dreams, I turn on my flashlight and scribble words onto scraps of paper. My mind is racing with words that seem to come from somewhere deep inside of me. Maybe it is the voice of a hunger striker shivering in his dark prison cell, or the screams of an orphan that has been left and forgotten. I feel their darkness surrounding me as I scratch and scribble and then stop to…

For the rest, please go to  https://medium.com/extra-credit/91dbb72d9f30 and if you liked reading it, hit recommend at the bottom of the page on medium.com to help me get a scholarship. You need an account with medium or Twitter to recommend it (which only takes two minutes to make).  Every vote counts! 

Peace be with you :)

View original

Posted in Social Justice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Jeffster Awards: Week 23

(Photo credit: skulzstudios)

(Photo credit: skulzstudios)

This is the next installment of an ongoing series at Deconstructing Myths…the Jeffster Awards! This award will be given each week to five outstanding blog posts that caught my wandering eye. There are no strings attached or requirements for reciprocation. I don’t have time to comment on other blogs as much I’d like to so the least I can do is direct readers to some of these outstanding writers, poets, and visual artists. Please direct all feedback (likes, comments, follows) to the blogs themselves. I hope you enjoy these exemplary posts as much as I did. So, without further ado, here are the recipients of this week’s Jeffster Awards…hot off the (Word)presses.

Lessons from Fighting Privatized Public Education in Chile at Classroom Struggle

Adventures in Leftism, Part 1: Guatemalan Fried Chicken and The Invasion of Iraq at The Activationist

Dizraeli & Bellatrix at RiversRun ~ Emma Dutton

A March Down Memory Lane at AlvaradoFrazier

The King of Love at Denise Sullivan

_________________

Peace and solidarity to all readers

Posted in Social Justice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A new day

UFW

(Photo credit: Wavy1)

The fight is never about grapes or lettuce. It is always about people.”

-Cesar Chavez

Once upon a time in a land far, far away, a really tall man with a top hat and rocking beard boldly proclaimed, “That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” Now, this man, who would one day go on to find his likeness engraved on the American penny, didn’t stop there. He went on to state, “I recommend to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages.” Regrettably, there appears to be some people who did not get this memo or forgot to turn on their Google alerts. It is now 2014, and if one looks hard enough, one finds that slavery is alive and well in the United States. Immigrants have always borne the brunt of the burdens upon arriving in the sweet land of liberty but as the forces of global capitalism and neoliberalism bring down the hammer of austerity on unsuspecting citizens, here and abroad, there is a population of laborers especially vulnerable to the invisible pimp hand of the marketplace. Every day of every week, farmworkers rise with the sun to do the backbreaking work of tending and harvesting the crops for Americans to enjoy at their dinner tables. Fortunately, just as the rebel alliance had Luke and Leia to stand between them and the Vader-led Empire, so, too, the farmworkers possessed two remarkable public figures who willingly interceded on their behalf…Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta.

happy Cesar Chavez Day! (Dr. Martin Luther Kin...

(Photo credit: throgers)

Cesar Chavez was a Chicano (Mexican-American) activist born in Arizona and the charismatic founder of the United Farm Workers of America (UFW). As a boy, his family was evicted from his grandfather’s farm as the Depression and drought took it’s toll from sea to shining sea. Forced to join migrant laborers in the fields in California, he watched his mother and father toil for pennies a day while living in migrant camps and, at times, out of the family’s car. Here, the seeds were sown for the passion that would drive Chavez to one day organize the mostly illiterate, undocumented workers living in constant fear of reprisal from their employers and the government. Growers were quick to exploit the cheap labor and ruthless in their quest to dispel any attempts at organizing the largely transient population. Chavez recognized early on the importance of building a strong union before attempting direct engagement with the growers but confrontation was inevitable. Chavez famously took on the Hoffa-led Teamsters who sought to broker back room deals with the growers at the expense of the farmworkers. Chavez looked to the teachings and example of Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolent approach to civil disobedience, preferring to engage in “moral jujitsu” with opponents. During his tenure, the UFW took on the powerful agribusiness owners who controlled the fruit, vegetable, grain and cotton fields of California and Arizona. He organized marches, boycotts, strikes, cooperatives and even fasts to bring support and solidarity for La Causa (The Cause).

Dolores

(Photo credit: dumbeast)

At the same time Chavez’s star was rising in prominence, another invaluable activist was working behind the scenes on behalf of the farmworkers. Dolores Huerta was an accomplished community organizer, which is where she and Chavez first crossed paths. She would eventually leave the Community Service Organization (CSO) to join Chavez and the UFW. Where Chavez was mild and soft-spoken at first appearance, Huertas was outspoken and brash, an anomaly in the male-dominated subculture the farmworkers inhabited. Heurta remarked, “The participation of woman has helped keep the movement nonviolent.” Like Chavez, she recognized the necessity of providing for the immediate needs of the UFW members…for improving literacy, advocating in legal issues and navigating the social services. When members could not afford dues, food was accepted as payment for services rendered. Like Chavez, her arrest record was long and her FBI record extensive, as the Bureau spied on both activists through the years. In 1988, during a peaceful demonstration against the Presidential campaign of Bush, Sr., Huerta was assaulted by a police officer who broke several ribs and ruptured her spleen. In 2012, Huerta received the Medal of Honor alongside Gordon Hirabayashi and Toni Morrison. Dolores Huerta is the embodiment of the tens of thousands of migrant workers who put their literal bodies on the line to fight for justice for farmworkers in the fields. For them, freedom is not an abstract concept but an ever elusive reality that, despite the gains made, continues to evade their grasp.

Description unavailable

(Photo credit: mtarlock)

The constant threat of violence and actual violence that was directed at the laborers cannot be understated. Thugs were hired by the growers to disrupt picket lines and union members were assaulted and even murdered. The police beat and arrested thousands of picketing members at the behest of the growers. In 1975, the UFW was instrumental in the passing of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act. The newly penned legislation guaranteed secret-ballot elections for union reps of farmworkers, sanctioned strikes and grievance procedures for unfair labor practices. Another topic of concern the UFW contended with was the increasing use of pesticides by the growers in the fields. In the mid-1960′s, Huerta and Chavez helped negotiate a stoppage to the use of pesticides such as DDT on grape and lettuce crops before the government began restricting the use of  pesticides. Capitalism has long been the story of two diametrically opposed forces…labor and management. One seeks to extract every ounce of profit from the other in a constantly evolving game of cat and mouse. As the building rep for my local teacher’s union, I have come to appreciate the role that the union plays in keeping the encroachments of management at bay. Without this counterbalancing force, it is not difficult to imagine a return to the dark days of feudalism where we are all serfs on the global plantation. It is no coincidence that the past decade has seen an unprecedented assault on labor unions across the country by the lackeys for the princes of privatization.

(Photo credit: Jeff Nguyen)

(Photo credit: Jeff Nguyen)

It’s funny, I don’t remember reading much about Chavez, Huerta or the UFW in the textbooks when I was in school. Instead, I was taught to esteem the founding fathers (patriarchs) and emulate the captains of capitalism (robber barons), who built this country on the hunched backs of slave and immigrant labor. Our current POTUS famously co-opted the UFW’s slogan, “Sí, se puede” in his election campaign. The POTUS’s stark betrayal of the labor movement was first glimpsed when Wisconsin teachers stormed the capital, in 2011, to protest the union-busting tactics of Governor Scott Walker. The POTUS was apparently too busy looking for a pair of comfortable shoes to show up in support of the protesters. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) are the natural, spiritual descendants of Huertas, Chavez and the UFW. Their tireless, grassroots organizing and forging of alliances have helped them ink Fair Food Program agreements with major corporations on behalf of tomato pickers in Immokalee, Florida. As the neoliberal agenda to privatize, deregulate and gut social welfare spending shifts into overdrive, it is important to see that this is a global struggle. In order to be able to get up and stand up against these powerful forces arrayed against us, we will need to link arms in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the international community. A new day is possible but every voice is needed in the struggle. Who knows which drop of water will be the one to finally bring down the levees so all can enjoy the fruits of their labors…justicia, ahora, para los trabajadores agrícolas!

Peace and solidarity to all readers.

Further resources:

United Farm Workers

Coalition of Immokalee Workers

The Struggle in the Fields (PBS documentary)

Posted in Social Justice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Jeffster Awards: Week 22

(Photo credit: skulzstudios)

(Photo credit: skulzstudios)

This is the next installment of an ongoing series at Deconstructing Myths…the Jeffster Awards! This award will be given each week to five outstanding blog posts that caught my wandering eye. There are no strings attached or requirements for reciprocation. I don’t have time to comment on other blogs as much I’d like to so the least I can do is direct readers to some of these outstanding writers, poets, and visual artists. Please direct all feedback (likes, comments, follows) to the blogs themselves. I hope you enjoy these exemplary posts as much as I did. So, without further ado, here are the recipients of this week’s Jeffster Awards…hot off the (Word)presses.

Chilean Protests: the commercialization of Education at Stanito

Words: Warring Against Another Kind of Poverty at Kids in the System

Wisdom of the Baobab at Living Your Wholefullness™

Cuisine, Culture, Identity, and Adoption. at Transracialeyes

I Dream in Colour at Naija-Kiwi Jen

_________________

Peace and solidarity to all readers

Posted in Social Justice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,