Welcome to Bizarro Congress. The past six months have been stuffed chockfull of triumphs and disappointments for the Democratic Party: bills denouncing the Iraq War, bills prolonging the Iraq War, bills calling the troops home, bills providing the funds to keep the troops in Iraq for up to three more years. The strange news? Theyre all the same bill. The 2007 Supplemental Spending Bill, which passed both the House and the Senate in late March, put more than $100 billion toward the continuation of the Iraq Warbillions more than President Bush himself suggested. Along with a proposed additional $142 billion slated to pass in the fall, this budgets substantially bigger than any military budget in the past six years…..
Sacred Grounds Desecrated at Sturgis
Bikers USA Editorial
With approximately 200,000 riders in Waterloo Alabama, the number of riders who go on the Trail of Tears Ride is quite impressive. Sadly, the number of supporters for Bikers for Bear Butte, pales in comparison. If you care about freedoms, such as religious freedoms, or rights, such as the rights of indigenous people, there is what appears to be an evident hypocrisy that bikers need to be aware of in order to overcome. At the 2006 Sturgis Rally, most bikers saw lots of Indians gathered in protest. They were not there to protest your presence! They were there to ask your support in keeping commercial interests from destroying their sacred grounds. Only a few bikers stopped to talk with them and find out why. Good for those few! One uninformed biker spat at them as he rode past a group. They are not anti-biker.
What you saw at Sturgis was NOT Indians versus Bikers.
It is Indians versus Fatcats bent on further desecrating and ruining their sacred grounds and using your hard-earned money and politics to do it. The Indians RESPECT your heritage and traditions and want to work with you, to let you know how you can RESPECT theirs. Bikers USA calls on riders along the Trail of Tears to please learn of the pending destruction taking place at Bear Butte, and spread the word about supporting Bikers for Bear Butte in 2007. Bikers for Bear Butte seeks to educate bikers about how to honor requests by tribes, to help them in preserving Bear Butte Mountain, north of Sturgis, as Sacred Grounds, rather than letting them be overrun by commercial interests who build closer and closer every year.
When our friend and longtime contributor Benjamin DeMott passed away on September 29, 2005, he left behind the following manuscript, which he had worked on steadily throughout his final illness. We find it remarkable not only for its courage and style but for an honest insight that if anything has only appreciated with time.
Editor’s note introducing “Battling the Hard Man” by Benjamin DeMott in the August 2007 issue of Harper’s
Benjamin DeMott provides a literal pulse for this modern life that resonates like a thunderclap in the ear.
It is not his fault that the ‘hard man’ penetrated his psyche and reproduced. If dominance, revenge and violence could stir his passion, even as death stormed his sanctum, what hope is there for the rest of us?
Subtitled – Notes on addiction to the pornography of violence – it is a beleaguered DeMott staying the course, deploying empirical excuses for his guilty pleasure, releasing them like clusters disperse bomblets amidst acres of frankly brilliant reflections. Perhaps the pandering reflects a work-in-progress and not his typical Sunday’s best.
Perhaps even soldiers of valour who write ridiculously well find it impossible to rationalise an addiction to authority, but they must try. DeMott believes that when he was a young fuckup going nowhere, hating nothing, he knew surrender. He swears this innocence was overtaken by uninvited soul snatchers.
By Bob Ray Sanders, Star-Telegram, 29 July 2007
Another trip to Death Row.
Another man scheduled to die on the gurney in Texas’ infamous killing chamber.
Another human being who does not deserve this tragic fate.
And another case that speaks to the absurdity of how capital punishment is applied in general throughout this country, but particularly in the Lone Star State.
The case of Kenneth Foster Jr., scheduled to die next month for a 1996 murder in San Antonio, is further proof of how cruel, capricious, unjust and utterly insane our death penalty laws have become.
Because of this tainted system, whether you believe in capital punishment or not, a man who did not plan or commit a murder will die Aug. 30 unless somebody — a judge, the Board of Pardons and Paroles and/or the governor — has the heart and the guts to stop it.
EDITORIAL BOARD, Austin American-Statesman, 28 July 2007
Kenneth Foster didn’t commit murder. But that won’t stop the State of Texas from executing the Austin native Aug. 30.
It was Mauriceo Brown who shot and killed Michael LaHood in San Antonio 12 years ago â not Foster. Even the prosecution agrees that Foster was 85 feet away from the murder scene. But because of the Texas Law of Parties, that simply does not matter.
Under the 33-year-old law of parties, a person can be held responsible for a crime committed by someone else. According to the law, Foster “should have anticipated” that Brown would commit murder.
Though the law has its supporters, the application in the Foster case highlights flaws.
Only a few states have a law of parties as severe as Texas and no other state applies it as frequently to capital murder cases as Texas. About 80 inmates are on death row awaiting execution under the law of parties. They may not have done the actual killing, but they were along for the ride.
In a case similar to Foster’s, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Eighth Amendment “does not allow the death penalty for a person who is a minor participant in a felony and does not kill, attempt to kill, or intend to kill.”
New testimony shows Foster didn’t play a major role in the shooting that took the life of LaHood on Aug. 14, 1996.
In the original trial, Foster’s court-appointed lawyer failed to bring up key points that might have vindicated Foster. The same lawyer submitted a 20-page appellate brief in the Foster case â laughably short for a death penalty case. The lawyer also failed to pursue key testimony.
When Keith Hampton, an Austin lawyer skilled in criminal appellate work, took over Foster’s case, he remembers thinking, “Wait a minute, this guy is on death row?” He uncovered new testimony that ultimately won a stay in Foster’s case. Unfortunately, the ruling was overturned by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
Foster was no angel. He and three other men in the car â Brown, Julius Steen and Dwayne Dillard â had committed two armed robberies earlier that night. But the new testimony from Steen and Dillard shows that the men had no role in planning or carrying out a murder.
According to Steen and Dillard, Foster repeatedly pleaded with them and Brown, while in the car, to return home before they encountered LaHood. He also tried to drive away when he heard the gunshots, but Steen and Dillard made him stop and wait for Brown, who was executed for his part in the crime last year.
With a month left until Foster’s scheduled execution, his supporters are left with two options: The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals must rule in favor of Foster, or the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles must recommend commuting Foster’s sentence. If the Board of Pardons and Paroles recommends commutation, Gov. Rick Perry decides Foster’s fate.
Considering Perry’s track record on commuting executions, it is unlikely that Perry will decide in favor of Foster, even though he should.
Neither the governor nor the Court of Criminal Appeals should allow the state to execute a man for a crime someone else committed. Foster should be punished for his part in the robberies. But the state shouldn’t take his life for failing to anticipate that his friend would commit murder.
Kenneth Foster Rally Austin, TX July 21, 2007
By Jan Baumgartner, OpEdNews.com, 23 July 2007
Last week, I wrote about the impending execution of Troy Anthony Davis, after receiving a 90-day stay of execution last Tuesday, he continues to sit on Georgia death row, awaiting his fate.
Today, I heard about the case of Kenneth Foster, Jr., a Texas death row inmate scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on August 30, 2007.
Are you familiar with the name Kenneth Foster, Jr.? Have you heard mention of his case, or impending death, in mainstream media? Have you heard of the “Law of Parties”?
Now, does the name of pro-athlete Michael Vick ring a bell? It should. His name and the horrific images splayed across our television screens over the past week, have brought to light the barbaric and callous “sport” of illegal dog fighting. The onslaught of media coverage has induced widespread public outrage, and rightfully so, over the sadistic extermination of poor-performing pitbulls, savagely put to death by various methods, including hanging and electrocution.
So, where does Kenneth Foster, Jr., fit in? Beside the fact that most people have never heard of him, he will die next month for the crime of murder even though he never touched the murder weapon.
The state of Texas acknowledges this. He killed no one. He knew nothing of the impending crime about to unfold around him. Yet, he was convicted of murder and sentenced to death under a little known statute. What makes the law possible – to kill a man who never committed the crime of murder – is called the Law of Parties.
Venezuela Information Office
25 July 2007
Dear Friends of Venezuela,
Recently, a number of Members of Congress have made enquiries into the active support of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the undemocratic and unconstitutional coup d’etat against Venezuela in April 2002. The coup government of Pedro Carmona dissolved the Constitution, the National Assembly, and the Supreme Court before the democratically elected government of President Hugo Chavez was returned to power by a popular uprising.
DEMAND THE TRUTH
Toward this effort, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Rep. Raúl Grijalva and Rep. José Serrano are currently asking their colleagues in Congress to join them in their quest to seek answers for the IMF’s immediate offer of assistance to the coup government of Pedro Carmona, and what, if anything, the institution knew about the coup in advance.
At an IMF press briefing on April 12, 2002, the IMF External Relations Director, Mr. Dawson, was asked if the IMF had any concerns about the events taking place in Venezuela and about the “status of the IMF-Venezuela relationship?” Mr. Dawson acknowledged that he was aware of the events that had taken place [a coup] and reading from a prepared statement went on to say that “we stand ready to assist the new administration in whatever manner they find suitable.” (From the transcript, available on the IMF’s website). A significant number of Members of Congress should demand that the IMF explain these statements.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Call your Congressmember and ask him/her to sign onto the Dear Colleague letter “Why Would the IMF Offer Immediate Assistance to an Undemocratic Coup Government?” sponsored initially by Kucinich and Grijalva. If they have any questions, refer them to the office of Rep. Kucinich.
Then, ask your Representative to contact the IMF and ask the following: 1) Why did the IMF support a coup government and 2) Request a copy of all documents and records pertaining to this IMF policy decision towards Venezuela.
To find out who represents you in Congress, please go to http://www.house.gov/writerep/ For further information, please contact the Venezuela Information Office at 202-347-8081, ext. 603.
Let us know if you and your friends have called your members of Congress!
Venezuela Information Office
By Nina Bernstein, New York Times, 23 July 2007
Under his familys homemade shrine to the Virgin of Guadalupe, Alan Flores, 8, spoke softly about the morning last month when federal immigration agents entered his home.
Apolinar Flores Romero, with his son, Alan, was arrested in New Haven by immigration agents.
It was part of a raid that has complicated, but not defeated, this citys novel plan to bring illegal immigrants out of the shadows.
The agents separated the children from the men. They placed Alan and three cousins, ages 7, 2 and 1, in a row on the living room couch. Then they asked the women, including Teresa Vara-Gonzalez, a housemate, if any of the children were theirs.
Teresa said no, and thats when they took her, Alan said in Spanish last week, pressing closer to his mother, Norma Sedeńo. They took away Teresa, and my father and my two uncles. And then I got scared that they were going to come back and take away my mom.
Those taken from Alans household were among the 32 immigrants arrested in the New Haven area by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and scattered to jails in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Maine, in an operation that began June 6 and ended June 11.
The operation started two days after the citys Board of Aldermen approved the plan to offer municipal identification cards to all residents, including an estimated 15,000 illegal immigrants settled in this city of 125,000.