Archive for December 16th, 2011
THIS DOCUMENT WAS ACCEPTED BY THE NYC GENERAL ASSEMBLY ON SEPTEMBER 29, 2011
As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies. As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power.
We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known. They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage. They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses.
They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation. They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization. They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless animals, and actively hide these practices. They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions. They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.
They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay. They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility. They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.
They have sold our privacy as a commodity. They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press. They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit. They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce. They have donated large sums of money to politicians, who are responsible for regulating them.
They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil. They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives or provide relief in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantial profit. They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.
They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media. They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt. They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad. They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas. They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts.
* To the people of the world, We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power. Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.
To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal. Join us and make your voices heard! *These grievances are not all-inclusive.”
© 2011, agentleman.
Editor’s note: This story contains graphic testimony.
HARRISBURG, Pa. — A Penn State assistant football coach testified Friday that he had no doubt he saw former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky in a sexual act with a boy in a university locker room in 2002.
“I believe he was sexually molesting the boy,” Mike McQueary, a graduate assistant in the university’s football program in 2002, said at a court hearing, adding at a later point that he “has no doubt” he saw Sandusky in a sexual act.
McQueary, speaking for the first time in public about the 2002 encounter, said he saw Sandusky with his hands around the boy’s waist. McQueary also said he fully conveyed what he had seen to two Penn State administrators about what he told them. He testified that he reported the incident to longtime head coach Joe Paterno.
McQueary took the stand Friday morning in a Pennsylvania courtroom during a preliminary hearing for Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, the two university officials who are accused of lying to a grand jury. The hearing was expected to last most of the day.
Since Curley’s and Schultz’s arrests, different versions of what McQueary witnessed have been reported. They testified to the grand jury that McQueary never relayed the seriousness of what he saw. The officials, and Paterno, have been criticized for not telling police about the 2002 allegation. Prosecutors say Sandusky continued to abuse boys for at least six more years.
McQueary told the court on Friday that he had gone into the building one night around 9 p.m. in the spring of 2002 after watching a football movie at home, which he said had motivated him to go into the building and get some work done, reported NBC News.
When he went into the locker room that night to drop off a pair of sneakers, McQueary said he saw a naked Sandusky behind a prepubescent boy he estimated to be 10 or 12 years old, with Sandusky’s hands wrapped around the boy’s waist. He said the boy was facing a wall, with his hands on it.
“I heard rhythmic slapping sounds, two or three slaps that sounded like skin on skin,” McQueary testified.
But McQueary also said: “I did not see insertion nor was there any protest, screaming or yelling.”
He said he was “shocked, horrified, not thinking straight. I was distraught.”
He said he looked into the shower several times and that the last time he looked in, Sandusky and the boy had separated. He said he didn’t say anything, but “I know they saw me. They looked directly in my eye, both of them.”
The position was very “sexually oriented,” McQueary said.
Under cross examination by an attorney for Curley, McQueary reiterated that he had not seen Sandusky penetrating or fondling the boy but was nearly certain he knew a sexual assault happened, in part because the two were standing so close and Sandusky’s arms were wrapped around the youth.
McQueary, 27 at the time, said he called his father, John McQueary, immediately afterward and told him: “I just saw coach Sandusky. What I saw was wrong and sexual.”
His father told him he needed to to report what he saw to Paterno, McQueary told the court.
McQueary then testified that he called Paterno early the following morning and told him he needed to speak with him about something.
He said he did not give Paterno explicit details of what he believed he’d seen, saying he wouldn’t have used terms like sodomy or anal intercourse out of respect for the longtime coach.
Paterno told him, “I’m sorry you had to see that” and that he had “done the absolute right thing,” McQueary said. The head coach appeared shocked and saddened and slumped back in his chair, McQueary said.
Paterno told McQueary he would talk to others about what he’d reported.
Nine or 10 days later, McQueary said he met with Curley and Shultz and told them he’d seen Sandusky and a boy, both naked, in the shower after hearing skin-on-skin slapping sounds.
“I told them that I saw Jerry in the showers with a young boy and that what I had seen was extremely sexual and over the lines and it was wrong,” McQueary said. “I would have described that it was extremely sexual and I thought that some kind of intercourse was going on.”
Spoke with university officials, not police
McQueary said he was left with the impression both men took his report seriously. When asked why he didn’t go to police, he referenced Shultz’s position as a vice president at the university who had overseen the campus police.
“I thought I was talking to the head of the police, to be frank with you,” he said. “In my mind it was like speaking to a (district attorney). It was someone who police reported to and would know what to do with it.”
Later, Thomas Harmon, the former chief of the Penn State police department, testified Schultz didn’t tell him about the shower allegation.
Paterno, Schultz and Curley didn’t testify, but District Judge William C. Wenner read their grand jury testimony from January in weighing the case.
© 2011, agentleman.
It’s Almost-Presidents’ Day!By SCOTT FARRIS
Eleven years ago today, Al Gore, for one important moment, was the most powerful man in our republic. The day before, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 vote, halted the partial recount of presidential ballots in Florida that Gore had requested. But that did not mean the 2000 presidential election was over. George W. Bush could not declare victory until Gore conceded defeat.
This is our protocol in every presidential election, whether the results are clear on election night or weeks later. Our democratic political system works only when the losers give their consent to be governed by the winners. The first signal that this consent is granted comes with the losing candidate’s concession. At this moment, following a hard-fought election where passions have run high, the concession begins the process of reuniting an intensely divided country. Yet this vital service to the nation provided by losing presidential candidates is seldom appreciated.
It may seem unthinkable that Gore would not have conceded, particularly in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision, yet he had supporters who urged him to push on and further challenge the legitimacy of the results. He had, after all, won the national popular vote.
In many countries, losing candidates do not peacefully accept defeat, and their obstinacy leads to political chaos, riots and sometimes civil war. Gore understood the risks to America from a prolonged dispute over an unresolved election.
Our democratic political system works only when the losers give their consent to be governed by the winners.
So, on Dec. 13, 2000, Gore choose to begin a process of healing. He did not merely concede, he gave a remarkably upbeat and friendly concession speech and quoted an earlier losing candidate, Stephen Douglas, who pledged to Abraham Lincoln upon losing the 1860 presidential election, “Partisan feeling must yield to patriotism. I’m with you, Mr. President, and God bless you.”
Most presidential elections are close, with roughly half having been won with 51 percent or less of the popular vote. This even division in our partisan alignment means supporters of either party have a reasonable expectation of victory, so defeat can come as a shock. Despite this, from our first losing presidential candidate, Thomas Jefferson in 1796 (George Washington won the first two presidential elections unopposed), to our most recent, John McCain, America has been blessed with men who have set aside crushing personal disappointment and embraced their responsibility to help maintain national unity.
In a society that worships winners, unsuccessful presidential candidates are considered losers, no matter how successful they were before and after the election. As John W. Davis, the Democratic nominee in 1924 and a brilliant constitutional lawyer, put it after his losing candidacy was vilified, “I believe I have been a fair success in life except as a candidate for president.”
It is often the losing candidate who is prophetic, while time proves that it was the winning candidate who was stuck in the past.
Winning the presidency does not guarantee the winner will leave a great mark upon history; the office has certainly had its share of non-entities. Many losing candidates, though, helped bring into being political dynamics that still define our politics. Men like Henry Clay, William Jennings Bryan, Thomas Dewey, Barry Goldwater and George McGovern have created, transformed and realigned our political parties. Losing campaigns typically are the first to break barriers and expand participation. These include the first Catholic to be nominated for president, as well as the first woman and the first Jew to be named as vice presidential nominees.
Whether breaking barriers or introducing new policies, it is often the losing candidate who is prophetic, while time proves that it was the winning candidate who was stuck in the past. Andrew Jackson is an American icon, yet it was his nemesis Clay who more clearly understood that America’s future was as an industrial power, not a bucolic republic of yeoman farmers. The Democrat Bryan was considered a radical, yet the reforms he advocated — creating the Federal Reserve, enacting pure food and drug laws, granting women the right to vote and enacting a federal income tax — all became law within years of his candidacies. Adlai Stevenson first raised the idea of a nuclear test ban during his 1956 campaign, while Goldwater’s 1964 campaign, which analysts at the time thought had “discredited conservatism,” famously laid the groundwork for Ronald Reagan to be elected 16 years later.
Despite their belief that voters made the wrong choice, our losing presidential candidates have been almost unfailingly gracious, and suffered the wounds of defeat with good humor. Sometimes that humor is self-effacing, as when Goldwater lamented that America “is a great country where anybody can grow up to become president — except me.” And sometimes the humor is pointed, as when Adlai Stevenson was told his erudite campaigns against Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956 had educated the country and he replied, “But a lot of people flunked the course!”
Whether the election on Nov. 6, 2012, is a landslide or a nail-biter, and whether the victor is President Obama or his Republican opponent, the loser will have the same power that Gore wielded in 2000 and will be confronted with the same choice every losing candidate has had to make in the wake of defeat: bring America together or widen our divisions. Let’s hope that he or she will serve the national interest and recognize that while he lost an election, history may yet judge his political legacy a success. As Al Gore said in his concession speech in 2000, “defeat might serve as well as victory to shape the soul and let the glory out.”
Scott Farris is the author of “Almost President: The Men Who Lost the Race But Changed the Nation.”
© 2011, agentleman.
R.I.P. CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS
Christopher Hitchens died Thursday in Houston. He was 62. The legendary writer was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2010.
His death was announced by Vanity Fair.
Hitchens was born in Portsmouth, Hampshire, England in 1949. His father, Ernest, a commander in the British Royal Navy, and his mother, Yvonne, a bookkeeper, scrimped and saved so that he could attend the independent Leys School in Cambridge, and later Balliol College, Oxford. They were determined that he would receive a top-notch education and join the upper class, The Guardian reported.
During his time at university, Hitchens studied philosophy, politics and economics, but the more he learned, the angrier he became. Hitchens’ disgust with racism and opposition to the Vietnam War led him to the political left. He would eventually join the International Socialists, a faction of the anti-Stalinist left, and participate in political protests against the war.
Attending college in the 1960s introduced Hitchens to a more hedonistic way of life as well. Although he eschewed drugs, Hitchens became both a heavy smoker and hard drinker. He claimed such practices supported his writing efforts. “Writing is what’s important to me, and anything that helps me do that — or enhances and prolongs and deepens and sometimes intensifies argument and conversation — is worth it to me. So I was knowingly taking a risk,” he said.
Writing was also the perfect outlet for him to enrage and enlighten. The British monarchy, Henry Kissinger and the Roman Catholic Church were just a few of his favorite targets in the 1970s. Despite being a bon vivant, Hitchens resolved to spend time at least once a year in “a country less fortunate than [his] own.” As such, the early part of his career was dedicated to wandering the globe, reporting on the world’s trouble spots and shining a light on those he considered cruel or evil, The New York Times reported.
After immigrating to the U.S. in 1981, Hitchens began writing for The Nation magazine. He would later edit and contribute articles to numerous publications, including Vanity Fair, the Atlantic Monthly, Slate, Harper’s, The Washington Post and The Huffington Post. His surprising advocacy for the war in Iraq, which was prompted by his growing conviction that radical elements in the Islamic world posed a danger to the West, gained Hitchens a wider readership, and in September 2005 he was named one of the “Top 100 Public Intellectuals” by Foreign Policy and Prospect magazines.
According to The Los Angeles Times, Hitchens penned two dozens books — including “Letters To A Young Contrarian,” “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything” and “Hitch-22: A Memoir” — and frequently made television and radio appearances. He also taught as a visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Pittsburgh and the New School of Social Research.
As a cultural pundit, Hitchens loved picking fights. He offered unsparing insight on a wide range of subjects, from politics to religion to his own his mortality, but was perhaps best known for his criticism of Mother Teresa, both in his 1994 documentary “Hell’s Angel,” and in Vanity Fair.
“[Mother Teresa] was not a friend of the poor,” Hitchens said. “She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction.”
His negative portrayal of a woman many considered to be a saint prompted hundreds of readers to cancel their magazine subscriptions. And yet, after word of his death was reported, India’s Missionaries of Charity order said it would pray for Hitchens’ soul, despite his aggressive campaign against its Nobel prize-winning founder, AFP reported.
In 2008, amidst a nationwide discussion of “enhanced interrogation techniques, Hitchens decided to subject himself to a waterboarding treatment to see if it was truly a form of torture. He lasted for 16 seconds.
“It’s annoying to me now to read every time it’s discussed in the press — or in Congress — that it simulates the feeling of drowning,” he said. “It doesn’t simulate the feeling of drowning. You are being drowned, slowly.”
Ever the contrarian, Hitchens adopted the U.S., warts and all, and took an oath of citizenship in 2007 on his 58th birthday. The ceremony was conducted by former President George W. Bush’s homeland security chief, Michael Chertoff.
An outspoken atheist — or as he preferred to be called, an antitheist — Hitchens rallied many to a belief in rational thinking by describing organized religion as the main source of hatred and tyranny in the world, Reuters reported. In the final years of his life, he debated both religious and political figures about the nature of faith and the existence of God.
“Faith is the surrender of the mind; it’s the surrender of reason, it’s the surrender of the only thing that makes us different from other mammals,” Hitchens said. “It’s our need to believe, and to surrender our skepticism and our reason, our yearning to discard that and put all our trust or faith in someone or something, that is the sinister thing to me. Of all the supposed virtues, faith must be the most overrated.”
Even after being diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus in 2010, Hitchens refused to turn to a deity or organized religion for comfort. He made it clear that if anyone ever claimed he had converted at the end of his life, it would be either a lie propagated by the religious community or an effect of the cancer and treatment that made him no longer himself.
“The entity making such a remark might be a raving, terrified person whose cancer has spread to the brain. I can’t guarantee that such an entity wouldn’t make such a ridiculous remark, but no one recognizable as myself would ever make such a remark,” he said.
“There will never be another like Christopher. A man of ferocious intellect, who was as vibrant on the page as he was at the bar,” said Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter. “Those who read him felt they knew him, and those who knew him were profoundly fortunate souls.”
Hitchens is survived by his wife, the writer Carol Blue, and three children.
© 2011, agentleman.