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This is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

Monday, May 15, 2006

The "All Volunteer Draft"

6,000 National Guard troops to the US-Mexican border for a period of one year.

Well, I guess it's better than getting blown up in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This nation's true conservatives must simply be scratching their heads. What happened the their Republican Party? It was hijacked by the members of PNAC, the Chicago Boys and the disciples of George W. Bush. 6,000 National Guardsmen spending another year away from their families and another year away from their civilian lives and jobs. And get this... they won't be allowed to perform any "police actions". What are they supposed to do, spit on the illegals as they cross the border?

According to President "G"lobal "W"arming Bush, their job will be as support for the front-line border patrol.


The law doesn't allow for the use of the US military as a police force in the United States itself. Maybe the National Guard can just yell to the border patrol "LOOK OUT!"

The president wants to keep a standing army that isn't quite standing and isn't quite sitting. he wants an army that he can take away from their families and lives at will. GW wants to use the Guard as a political ploy to show that he can get tough on illegal immigrants. While he's doing that, he's going to allow these same illegal immigrants to come across the border, as long as they don't stay. That's right... President Bush wants to allow LEGAL immigrants to come and take "the jobs that Americans won't do" from the Americans that don't have any jobs to do. Amazing.

"The President has called on Congress to increase the number of green cards that can lead to citizenship, and he supports increasing the number of visas available for foreign-born workers in highly skilled fields."
-The White House web site

Aren't we supposed to be learning the the "skills of the jobs of tomorrow"? And what of this statement made tonight in GW's "Immigration Speech"?

"English allows newcomers to go from picking crops to opening a grocery from cleaning offices to running offices from a life of low-paying jobs to a diploma, a career, and a home of their own."
-GW from his speech tonight

Wait a second here... If, as the White House web site says, we want "foreign-born workers in highly skilled fields", then who are these people coming in to "clean our offices" and "Pick our crops"?

"For decades, the United States has not been in complete control of its borders."
GW, tonight

Let's remember that the 9/11 commission recommended "fixing" our borders in their report. Why the delay, President Bush?

"So I support comprehensive immigration reform that will accomplish five clear objectives,"
"We are a nation of laws, and we must enforce our laws,"
"we need to hold employers to account for the workers they hire,"
"The United States must secure its borders,"

Doesn't "reform" mean to try something new? We should have been "securing our borders" all along... We should have been holding employers accountable before a mid-term election was on the horizon... And if all of this was not done before 9/11, then certainly it should have been done after. It's nice to see the president and the GOP finally get on board with the rest of us.

Let's be perfectly honest here, shall we? The president is saying the same old junk that he has been saying all along about immigration. He is simply trying to solidify his base before the 2006 mid-term elections with his rhetoric and empty promises of "just trust me" and "I know what I'm doing."


We don't, and he doesn't.

The numbers that I have heard for securing our southern border has the president federalizing as many as 150,000 National Guard troops. Between the forces we have in the middle east and a number like that on the US-Mexican border, our National Guard (our part-time army) is no going to work full-time.

Maybe President Bush ought to declare war on Mexico. Then he can do what he wants.

Oh, right... he'll do it anyway.

-Noah Greenberg

by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2006 Journal-Register Newspapers, Inc.

The turnout was huge for Gary Skerski's funeral May 12th at St. Adalbert's Catholic Church in the heart of Polish working-class Port Richmond. Skerski, a 16-year-veteran of the Philadelphia Police Department, was shot to death last week as he intervened in an armed robbery at a crowded neighborhood bar in Frankford. Skerski was one of many police officers to have been shot in the line of duty in recent months, but he was the first to die from gunfire in a decade.

Skerski's murder was only one of the nearly 150 killings in Philadelphia so far this year. Shootings are a daily occurrence throughout the city and now, so is murder. The reason for the explosion in gun violence, asserts District Attorney Lynn Abraham, is simple: Philadelphia has the most lax gun laws in the entire country with no limit on the number of guns any individual who passes an instant background check can purchase. This means anyone who isn't a felon and who has the money to pay for guns can buy as many as he or she wishes. According to the DA, this means guns are being bought and resold in straw purchases (sales that go unrecorded by local or state officials) to those who should not have guns: felons, gang members, kids.

In Philadelphia, more than six times the number of guns were sold last year as were sold in the entire five boroughs of New York. The consequences of so many guns on the streets is apparent daily and in the grim statistics: Philadelphia is the most murderous big city in America–the only large city in the country where the murder rate continues to rise each year; in other major cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston, the numbers have continued to fall. This year's murder rate is keeping pace with last year's in which there were close to 400 murders and five times as many shootings.

While gang wars, drug turf wars and just plain settle-it-with-a-gun arguments–many involving teens like the shooting outside Olney High School ten days ago that resulted in the wounding of two students–continue to escalate in Philadelphia, the Mayor's office parades confiscated guns before the public as if it means something in the wave of violence. An increasingly ineffectual Police Commissioner repeats the same tired phrases about needing to get guns off the streets.

Still, the shooting never stops.

DA Abraham told NPR's Marty Moss-Coane in an interview last week, every effort made by her office to control guns in Philadelphia is "dead on arrival" in the State Legislature.

Abraham has always been known for her outspoken comments about crime. Whether it's pedophile priests and a self-protective Archdiocese or teenage sociopaths with no regard for human life or a Penn professor allowed the luxury of house arrest after raping a student, Abraham has been equally caustic: crime is crime in her book. According to Abraham, those who allow crime to flourish–be they Catholic Bishops or the Republicans who have a stranglehold on the State Legislature--are culpable and should be held accountable.

The salvos Abraham fired last week did not go ignored in either the Mayor's office (she accused Mayor Street of not following through with essential programs to help curb violence, like hiring more police and funding the witness protection program; several witnesses have been shot this year and two men who shot and paralyzed a young girl were released last month when witnesses recanted after being threatened) or the State Legislature (Republican House Speaker John Perzel protested that Abraham was off the mark when she claimed that the NRA controlled Perzel and his cronies. Nevertheless, he also stated in a press conference that there would be no anti-gun legislation on his watch and lay the blame for the murder rampage in Philadelphia at the feet of the Police Commissioner and Abraham herself).
What has to happen for the violence to de-escalate?

Although many Philadelphians have had concerns over Abraham's hard line over the years, in this instance she is absolutely right: Until guns are controlled in Philadelphia, they are going to continue to be as prevalent as cell phones. Until witnesses are afforded some measure of protection and the whole "don't snitch" campaign is countermanded by community outrage, outlaws will control the neighborhoods and murders like Skerski's and shootings like those outside Olney High School will be the rule, not the exception.

One point Abraham did not make in her intense hour-long interview was that gun violence in Philadelphia is also class and racial violence. Even Skerski, a veteran cop, was a working-class guy from a working-class neighborhood. The people killing and being killed in Philadelphia are almost solely working-class and poor and predominantly of color. The highest murder rates in the city are in neighborhoods where illegal guns are considered an answer to all of life's inequities: North Philly, East Mount Airy, Germantown, Nicetown, Kensington, Frankford, West Oak Lane, West Philly, Gray's Ferry. When murders happen in Center City, Society Hill, Chestnut Hill, the Northeast, East Falls and Manayunk–the city's wealthiest neighborhoods--they are anomalous. But in those other areas, whether predominantly white Kensington or predominantly black East Mount Airy, gun violence is a daily occurrence.

Thus one cannot help but wonder if class and race politics play a role in getting guns off the streets. The Republicans in the State Legislature have heard pleas from law enforcement and from Governor Rendell himself when he was Mayor of Philadelphia about the absurdity of having no limit on gun purchases. More than a decade ago Rendell proposed a one-gun-per-month limit on gun buyers in Philadelphia and his proposal was excoriated. Twelve guns per year per person was considered an infringement on the rights of gun owners in the state by these legislators whose pockets are lined by the NRA and who are kept in office by their rural constituents who have no clue what it is like to have their children dodging bullets on the way to elementary school every morning.

The plethora of guns is breeding a more sociopathic criminal as well. When guns answer every argument, no matter how minor (a 15 year old was shot to death on his living room sofa in broad daylight last month after an argument with an acquaintance), conscience fades easily.

The murderers of Faheem Thomas-Childs were sentenced April 28th. Childs, 10, was slaughtered in a gun battle outside his elementary school two years ago. His killers' trial was alarmingly typical. Devonso Dawson wasn't one of the murderers, but he was charged at trial–for suborning perjury when he told his 18-year-old daughter to lie on the witness stand about what she had seen the morning Faheem was murdered.

In open court for prosecutors, defense and judge (the killers had chosen a judge over a jury) to hear, Dawson ordered his daughter to rescind her previous–and voluminously detailed testimony–and say "You don't remember nothin'." She did just that. The event caused yet another furor–five other witnesses were also intimidated into recanting–but Dawson was arrested and Faheem's killers were still convicted.
Upon sentencing, however, Faheem's killers were utterly unrepentant. At 21, Kennell Spady is a career criminal as is Kareem Johnson, also 21. Both threatened Faheem's mother, Patricia Arnold, at the hearing where they received life sentences. Spady spat toward her and said he would "haunt her for the rest of her days" and spewed obscenities.

Spady and Johnson had gone to the elementary school that morning prepared for a gun battle with rival drug lords, Cassius and Jerome Broaster. Spady wanted to kill them for shooting him the year before. Spady had a military-style .30-caliber carbine and Johnson had a .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol. Johnson's gun fired the bullet that killed Faheem, but police determined that Johnson and Spady fired more than 98 bullets; the Broaster's fired five. A crossing guard was injured and permanently disabled while trying to protect children from being fired upon during the gun battle which occurred just before 8am that February morning.

The events of the Thomas-Childs murder and subsequent trial are proto-typical of Philadelphia gun violence. Gun battles with meta-armed criminals who don't care who gets caught in their crossfire. Spady and Johnson went to Faheem's school that morning because they knew the Broaster brothers would be dropping their own children off for classes. The men *knew* that they would be surrounded by elementary school children when they opened fire and *they didn't care.*

Nor did the witnesses care that a little third grader had been murdered.

The killers, once convicted, felt no remorse and blamed the victim's mother for their incarceration, as did their families–families who *knew* these men had killed a ten-year-old and that they were career criminals.

At press time Officer Skerski's killer has yet to be found despite the $130,000 reward for his capture and video of him committing the robbery at gunpoint. Skerski saved numerous lives in the popular bar that night by making himself the target. But should Skerski even have been working yet another overtime shift? How many murders must there be in Philadelphia for Sylvester Johnson to demand that the Mayor make funds available for more police? How many witnesses have to recant in a given month for the Mayor to bolster the witness protection program? How many more police and civilians need to die or be maimed before Harrisburg gets the message that urban crime is different than shooting deer?

Johnson has been with the Philadelphia PD for more than 40 years, four as Commissioner. Johnson might be well-liked by the rank and file, but his effectiveness in the wave of violence is definitely in question, as are the efforts of the Mayor in helping to quell the violence.

Isn't it time for the Mayor to issue some sort of moratorium on gun violence? And what about our ever-lackluster City Council, which includes three probable candidates for Mayor? For weeks the big debate in Council as been smoking in city bars. What about smoking *guns* on city streets? Why the big silence from Council on this life and death issue?

Every week Mayor Street ends his weekly radio address with his trademark "And don't forget to drink your water." Why not change that slogan to "And don't forget to stop shooting other Philadelphians" or "And don't forget to turn in your illicit guns" or "And don't forget if your sons are murdering people they aren't *good boys*"?

Philadelphia has been like the Wild West for several years with no end in sight. There is more outrage about a proposed casino that would bring 1,500 jobs to the blighted Nicetown-Germantown area than there is about the daily gun violence in those same neighborhoods. Hundreds turn out to protest slot machines–where's the outrage over the daily killings of children? There are signs on lawns from East Falls to Mount Airy demanding "No casino here!"–how about replacing them with "No guns here!"?

Hours before Officer Skerski was shot the Mayor and other city officials were welcoming members of the Olympic Committee considering Philadelphia as host for the 2016 games. What will our slogan be: Come for the games, get shot instead?

Abraham has thrown down the gauntlet on gun violence in Philadelphia but the Mayor's response has been, like Perzel's, appalling–outrage not at the wave of killings, but at Abraham calling attention to them.

The lawlessness has to stop. Only a concerted effort between the Mayor, Harrisburg, Johnson and City Council will have any impact. Witnesses must be protected if they are expected to testify. The flow of guns has to be stanched or the flow of blood never will be. We've lost enough lives to this senseless killing over the past few years. Show a little outrage. The next bullet could be coming through *your* living room window or killing *your* child as she jumps rope or he heads for school. Our neighborhoods are being run by gangsters and thugs and our city and state officials are doing nothing about it. If they won't, we must.

Tonight's Quote

"USA Today better hire good lawyers. Remember that Bush has vowed to use espionage statutes to prosecute reporters who report on leaked 'national security' issues.
Spying on citizens and prosecuting reporters -- that's so Soviet."
-Joe Sudbay

-Forwarded by David W.

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-Noah Greenberg