Blase Bonpane a Mighty Voice for Fundamental Change

Sepulveda Unitarian Universalist Society Onion

(The "Onion" where the Sepulveda Unitarian Universalist Society holds services)

Enthusiastic activist, former Jesuit priest, Director of Office of the Americas, and author of "Imagine No Religion", Blase Bonpane, spoke today at the Sepulveda Unitarian Universalist Society morning service. He began by singing in his persuasive mellow voice:

"Last night I had the strangest dream I ever dreamed before. I dreamed the world had all agreed to put an end to war. I dreamed I saw a mighty room. The room was filled with men. And the paper they were signing said they'd never fight again.

And when the papers all were signed and a million copies made. They all joined hands and bowed their heads and grateful prayers were prayed. And the people in the streets below were dancing round and round. And guns and swords and uniforms were scattered on the ground. Last night I had the strangest dream I ever dreamed before. I dreamed the world had all agreed to put an end to war"

Setting that tone of his prophetic wisdom, so much a part of his life’s work, he guided the congregation at the "Onion", with his vision of how our present political system has failed to deliver the most essential values of an intelligent caring society dedicated to a better world. Instead we have become the world's terrorist in leading the number of killings of human beings since World War II.

We stand 34 in the world on how a country treats our children and 43 in the truth of our publication of the news. He emphasized that you can judge the values of a country by how they treat their children. He demolished our pompous claim to exceptionalism based more on religious faith than fact.

He reminded me of why I came to the Onion in 1983 when I wanted to find a church that was involved in the peace movement, and had a youth program to bring to ours 2, 5, and 9 for an outside caring influence. I had noticed members of Unitarian Churches were strong activists for the United Farm Workers when I worked as an attorney for Cesar Chavez, and this was the closest UU Church in Sepulveda only five miles from our home.

Farley Wheelwright led the congregation in rousing sermons on peace, social justice, and protests against nuclear weapons at Rockwell and other defense oriented corporations. He often dedicated sermons to the ravaging of Nicaragua, Guatemala, and other locations by our CIA sponsored terror and support of ruthless dictators. An Onion parishioner, Nick Sedita, led the congregation and others in the nationwide nuclear freeze movement. I became chair of the Social Concerns Committee and my wife was in charge of “religious education” where our children learned to appreciate nature, peace, music, and respected people of different races and cultures.

Bonpane lived and worked with the realities of liberation theology for more than a quarter of a century. In his book, Guerrillas of Peace, he takes the reader from the high country of Huehuetenango in Guatemala to intensive grass roots organizing in the United States. He shows that we cannot renew the face of the earth and coexist with the torturing, murdering governments of Guatemala and El Salvador, and their accomplices in Washington.

In his sermon he urged us to understand that a new person has to be formed to make our world the place we want to raise our children and live fully. This revolutionary person insists that human values be applied to government. That leads to a remarkable and necessary conclusion...children should not be free to die of malnutrition, no one should be allowed to die of polio or malaria, women should not be free to be prostitutes, no one should be illiterate. The loss of these freedoms is essential for a people to make their own history. This is the Theology of Liberation, the kind of theology that made the early Church an immediate threat to the Roman Empire.

He reminded us of Eleanor Roosevelt’s statement of basic human rights that includes health care, and education as a requirement of a developed country. So far behind on this is the United States as well as many other countries, we see college students burdened with $90,000 in education costs that maybe the government will allow a lower interest rate on when a developed country should provide the education as a basic human right like health care at no cost.

On the environment Bonpane reminds us our oceans contain an area as large as Texas filled with plastic bottles that have come to rest there. Instead our country keeps relying on nuclear power when no one knows what to do with the enormous radioactive waste. The air we breathe and water we drink is not just for America that represents only 4% of the world, but for everyone so we must learn to work together with all nations despite our differences.

We can’t allow the Lockheeds of the Military Industrial Complex to continue to reap the benefits of a trillion dollars set aside for nuclear weapon improvements on the 2014 models with these disparities facing us. On the positive side recently a huge union movement in New York that attracted hundreds of thousands of marchers demanded wage increases to $15/ hour and an anti-war movement including veterans is gaining momentum and has actions to bring attention to the peace movement so necessary to gather international support.

To think that in Yemen we have provided drones to the Saudi dictatorship to attack the Houthis who are fighting our enemy Al Qaeda is madness. 23 years of war with Iraq, sending our troops there and killing them as well as those in the area has only increased the hatred for the US Military and shows our foreign policy is not working. We must challenge all these developments with all our energy or we will not have a planet for our children that is fit for human life.

Bonpane, former Maryknoll priest and superior, was assigned to, and expelled from, Central America. UCLA professor, contributor to the L.A. Times, N.Y. Times, commentator on KPFK, and author of many publications, he is currently Director of the Office of the Americas, a broad-based educational foundation dedicated to peace and justice in this hemisphere.

Blase is a vanguard practitioner of liberation theology and a former Maryknoll priest. In the wake of the Second Vatican Council 1962-1965 many religious people, especially those serving in Latin America, began to understand a spirituality that transcended sectarianism. Having come from an upwardly mobile Italian American family marked by Southern Italian anti-clericalism, Blase was accustomed to hearing his parents express real differences with their institutional church.

He served in Guatemala during a violent revolution and was expelled for “subversion.” After receiving a gag order from the Church, which he could not in good conscience accept, Blase met with the editorial board of the Washington Post and released all of the material he had regarding the U.S. military presence in Guatemala. This action led to his separation from the Maryknoll Fathers.

Blase accepted a teaching post at UCLA. While serving in academia, he met the former Maryknoll Sister Theresa Killeen, who had served in Southern Chile. They married in 1970. Their adventures include working directly with Cesar Chavez at his headquarters in La Paz, California, building solidarity with the Central American Revolution, forming the Office of the Americas, working in the forefront of the international movement for justice and peace, and raising two children.

Bonpane also worked on the ground for international peace in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Honduras, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Cuba, Japan and Iraq. He led the U.S. contingent of the International March for Peace in Central America from Panama to Mexico in 1985-1986.

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From a Military Pawn to Pursuit of Justice

  Dan-at-Annapolis-at--the-wall-1961

(Dan a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland)

From a pawn in the military to law school and becoming a legal aid attorney started my recreated journey. Soon I became a staff attorney for Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers Union (AFL-CIO).

Cesar Chavez and dogs Huelga and Boycott

(Cesar Chavez with his dogs, Boycott and Huelga)

Later the ACLU of Southern California selected me as Director of the ACLU Farm Worker Project in Los Angeles. I submerged myself into the cutting edge of civil rights and consumer litigation with all my energy.

Dan hired by ACLU for farmworker project in Los Angeles 1974

Dan, Joan, and Aleksey at the Gallo March during the Boycott

Dan, Joan, and Aleksey at the Gallo March during the Boycott

(Top) Dan Hired by The ACLU as Director of the Farm Worker Project.

Meanwhile, Joan and I raised a family that fulfilled my vision coupled with my quickly learned advocacy skills that enabled me to continue a profession on a path others said would be impossible—it was one few traveled—but I met enough dedicated individuals whose life shined that I knew it was right for me.

Dan and Joan with Shiva in Berkeley

(Dan, Shiva, and Joan)

I completed litigation for the UFW when we resolved pending cases and The Agricultural Labor Relations Act created a board that resolved farm worker labor disputes and decided to launch my own civil rights practice. At the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission I researched cases where the charging party needed counsel and selected those that appeared meritorious. Meanwhile, The San Fernando Valley Law School selected me as their Constitutional Law professor. At the Federal Court of Appeals, I represented indigent appellants from criminal convictions. Many EEOC cases settled, kept employees from losing jobs, or from other types of discrimination, and compensated the client and me.

CHAPTER 38 Dan  ENCINO LAW OFFICE

(Dan at his Encino Civil Rights Office)

A union client came to my office complaining that he had been defamed and terminated from General Telephone Company. A judge dismissed his case in an order that held an employer had a qualified privilege to slander an employee for internal communications. My appeal was successful in Kelly v. General Telephone, (1982) 136 Cal. App. 3d 278, 186 Cal. Rptr. 184, and established a precedent on pleading a slander case, qualified privilege, and negligent infliction of an employee’s emotional distress that also allowed punitive damages. A large jury verdict the next year established justice for my client,  trial expertise, and unforeseen success. Dan Reading poem at Onion Fall Poetry Festival 11102013

(Dan reading from his memoir at Crown Books in Woodland Hills)

Recovering from each fiasco in my life and having learned a lesson each time, I defined a vision of what might occupy the rest of my life: a pursuit of social justice in whatever way I could find appropriate. The pieces fell together through hard work, determination, and a future with a woman who inspired me and calmed my wildness from swirling rapids to a deep river that refreshed and enabled me to continue against all odds.  Once I found a path that consumed me with passion I aimed as high as I could. No matter what confronts the reader, my story demonstrates an ordinary person can survive major conflicts, disappointments, injuries, risk of death, and still flourish. And if one's life contains advice to others struggling to find themselves after many mistakes,  studying creative writing under poets, authors, and professors and publishing a memoir offers an opportunity to share that vision with gratitude.

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Police Enabled by Prosecutors

Hello Friends: Here is an excellent article discussing how prosecutors enable police engaged in brutality and excessive force around the country from a knowledgeable civil rights lawyer and even a judge who remarked that this system is not what the founding fathers envisioned. Furthermore, our jails are filled with thousands of innocent people who the criminal "justice" system placed there and continues to do so regularly: police misconduct we can't Breathe poster 121014

By Barry Sussman (about the author)

The American criminal-justice system currently holds the world's largest population of incarcerated people, approximately 2.3 million at last count. It is a system that has people serving life sentences for non-violent offenses and, despite celebrated anecdotal instances of occasional leniency, tends to punish even the most trivial of offenders to the nth degree.

The stunning ease with which indictments and convictions are often obtained has resulted in a flood of false imprisonments. Stories of people spending decades in prison for crimes they did not commit are reported with sickening regularity, begging the question of how prosecutors can be allowed to wield such unchecked power. Incredibly, even when prosecutors are found to have engaged in deliberate withholding of exculpatory evidence, subornation of perjury, and other acts that subvert justice, meaningful accountability is absent. Numerous courts have held that prosecutors are immune from civil liability for such acts.

This unbridled and unchecked power has caused more than one prosecutor to brag about possessing the ability to "indict a ham sandwich." Being before anything else an extension of the prosecutor, the entire grand-jury process in America is ripe for whimsical outcomes and prosecutorial abuse. To obtain an indictment, all a prosecutor must do is present their best examples of inculpatory evidence, explain to the grand jurors how this evidence satisfies the elements of the charges being sought, and let the jury vote. The burden for indictment is nowhere near "proof beyond a reasonable doubt." A prosecutor must only show that it is more likely than not that a crime has been committed.

"If the prosecutor wants an indictment and doesn't get one, something has gone horribly wrong," said Andrew D. Leipold, a University of Illinois law professor who has written critically about grand juries. "It just doesn't happen."

The ease with which prosecutors obtain indictments allows for an overall indictment rate of about 98 to 99 percent. The rate of indictment is even higher in federal court where in 2010, the most recent year for which statistics are available, approximately 162,000 criminal cases were brought before grand juries with indictments being returned in all but 11 of them.

The grand jury is essentially a rubber stamp for prosecutors. This ability to completely control the grand jury's outcome is an invitation for endemic abuse.

Packing prisons with outright innocent and largely over-sentenced, over-prosecuted prisoners is one type of prosecutorial abuse. The statistical certainty of indictment virtually assures defendants that they will be subjected to trial, where conviction rates run as high as 99.5%. This leaves many who fall victim to an overzealous prosecutor with no choice but to plead guilty, regardless of their level of culpability. The problem has become so prevalent in federal court that a federal judge, USDJ Jed Rakoff, recently penned an article entitled "Why Innocent People Plead Guilty."

Rakoff's piece begins with an interesting observation. "The criminal justice system in the United States today bears little relationship to what the Founding Fathers contemplated, what the movies and television portray, or what the average American believes." It goes on to describe how a prosecutor "has all the advantages."

Recent events in Ferguson, MO, and Staten Island, NY, highlight another type of unchecked prosecutorial abuse. Two grand juries, one in New York where Eric Garner was choked to death by officer Daniel Pantaleo, the other in Missouri, where Michael Brown was fatally shot by officer Darren Wilson, defied the statistical certainty of indictment and failed to return criminal indictments against offending police officers. These were both highly anticipated grand-jury results with their respective decisions coming a little more than a week apart. Indictments failed to be returned despite a wealth of inculpatory evidence, including in the Garner matter videotape of the offending officer applying an illegal chokehold while the victim states 11 times that he could not breathe. The tape later shows police officers and EMT personnel failing to make any attempt at resuscitation.

The aforementioned ease with which an indictment can be obtained, coupled with the abundance of inculpatory evidence against the offending officers, strongly suggests that a competent first-year law student vested with ordinary prosecutorial power could have succeeded in securing indictments in these cases. The failure to indict signals this was the goal of the respective prosecutors from the beginning.

While the Garner and Brown killings have brought national attention to the issue, the failure of prosecutors to properly prosecute police is not a new phenomenon and may be more widespread than earlier believed. For example, according to a study by the Houston Chronicle, grand juries in Harris County, Texas, have not indicted a police officer in a decade. Grand juries in Dallas looked at 81 possible cases of police criminality between 2008 and 2012 and indicted only one police officer.

Despite the documented reticence of prosecutors to indict police, their law-enforcement counterparts in various media accounts wrote of the recent results as if they were objective, albeit inexplicable, outcomes.

"The reality of what we saw and what the grand jury's decision is, is really what people are clamoring to understand better," New York state Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins told USA Today.

"Daily Show" comedian Jon Stewart said of the Garner grand-jury decision, "I don't know. I honestly don't know what to say."

Ekow N. Yankah, a professor at Cardozo School of Law, said, "It is hard to understand how a jury doesn't see any probable cause that a crime has been committed or is being committed when looking at that video, especially." Conservative Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer called the outcome in the Garner matter "totally incomprehensible."

These observers, as well as others, spoke of the grand-jury process as if it was independent of prosecutorial predetermination. When viewed against the backdrop of total prosecutorial control, the decisions not to indict in the Brown and Garner killings are rather easy to understand and point directly to prosecutorial misconduct.

One observer who seemed to have a firmer grasp on how prosecutors run grand juries when police are defendants is retired NYPD detective Frank Serpico. In a column published by the New York Daily News, Serpico wrote, "Was I surprised by the Staten Island grand jury? Of course not. When was the last time a police officer was indicted?" Serpico's piece continued, "Today, we have cops crying wolf all the time. They testify 'I was in fear of my life,' the grand jury buys it, the DA winks and nods, and there's no indictment."

Exculpating the guilty is just another type of prosecutorial abuse and misconduct that can be viewed as the flip side of convicting the innocent. It is another way for prosecutors to project their will with no meaningful oversight or accountability. The prosecutors conducting the theatrical productions posing as the grand juries examining the Brown and Garner killings should admit as much and stop pushing responsibility for the results on grand jurors. Prosecutors' failure to truthfully acknowledge their singular control of the process is not only misleading but offensive to even marginally informed observers.

Prosecutors also need to end the bifurcated system of grand-jury empanelment where ordinary targets are quickly indicted by introducing only the most damning evidence for jurors to consider, while conducting grand juries for police that are replete with exculpatory evidence. Adding insult to injury, prosecutors typically point to a fictitious duty to "seek the truth" as the reason for allowing police defendants the benefit of exculpatory evidence at their grand-jury proceedings. If all defendants were afforded this right, grand-jury indictment rates would be well below their current level of de facto statistical certainty. Prosecutors must place a higher value on equal protection and stop affording their law-enforcement counterparts outrageously disparate preferred treatment.

http://www.onlinepublishingcompany.info

Barry Scott Sussman- Born and raised in New Jersey. Graduated from Rutgers University with a BA in Sociology. Graduated with a JD from the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law specializing in Federal Criminal Procedure.

The Brown/Garner Killings are about a Larger State of Official Terror

Unarmed Black men killings by police demonstrate Official Police Brutality. Video Tape shows ticketing for Garner selling cigarettes or for Brown,  arrest for robbery, might have been proper, not killing in these disgusting  travesties of justice that seem to be escalating around America depriving all of us of our FREEDOM guaranteed by our Constitution:    Ferguson Protest 12714        

By Harvey Wasserman (about the author)

"These un-prosecuted killings of African-American men go way beyond racial prejudice. They are the calling card of an Orwellian state.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out-- Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out-- Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out-- Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me

Pastor Martin Niemoller, speaking about Nazi Germany

First, they've come for the people of color.

America's police forces increasingly serve as a private corporate army, beyond the reach of the law.

But our nation is distracted by race. And millions of white Americans are under the illusion that what was done to Michael Brown and Eric Garner can't happen to them.

These un-prosecuted killings of African-American men go way beyond racial prejudice. Ferguson Protest, NYC 25th Nov 2014 (image by The All-Nite Images)

 

They are the calling card of an Orwellian state:

America's founders established grand juries to protect citizens from frivolous prosecution. But today's corporate state has twisted the system to protect killer police from public scrutiny, putting them above the law.

The ultimate message is clear: police can kill American citizens without cause and face no public trial. (Steven Rosenfeld lays out the details here.)

The current focus is on skin color. Thankfully, Americans throughout the US have risen up in protest, demanding social justice and an end to racism.

But the larger issue is a police apparatus now inflicting random terror in service of a corporate state that has mutated far beyond public control.

We are still being assaulted by a cynical 40-year drug war used to disenfranchise and violate the basic rights of millions of Americans with no real recourse.

In the name of that drug war, and the one on terror, police randomly confiscate (steal) billions in cash from citizens of all races, in direct violation of the Bill of Rights and any sense of a real legal system. Police departments use these officially sanctioned armed robberies to help fund heavy war-time weaponry also coming to them as "surplus" from the federal military. Citizens of color, the young, the poor and the elderly are being systematically stripped of the right to vote by a modern electronic Jim Crow. The dominance of a corporate one-party system is furthered by the use of privately-owed, easily-rigged electronic voting machines.

The NSA and other official agencies are spying on us without restraint.

Our ability to communicate through an open, neutral internet is also under attack. Meanwhile a San Diego rapper with no record of violence has been charged with multiple "crimes" based on his lyrics. As anger with America's billionaire elite spreads, we can certainly expect the counter-attacks on open speech to escalate.

That the victims of these latest police killings are most often men of color is tragic. It also gives the corporate media the perfect distraction behind which to hide the root problem.

Throughout our history, race has been the reliably lethal facade for all sorts of political repression. It's the hate-filled poison perfectly designed to divide and distract us.

That sickness is real enough. But the ultimate cancer we face is the rise of an all-powerful corporate state and its iron grip on a violent, unaccountable private army licensed to kill--no matter what the race or cause--while knowing that the once-sacred right to a public trial does not apply to them. Should the attacks on the internet succeed, we'll also be hearing less and less about them.

Thus we are all in the shoes of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Those who think themselves somehow above it all by virtue of race or class are simply not paying attention.

Unless we rise up to secure social justice and our basic legal rights, we're all just a single cop away from being as dead as the very latest victim of official violence... at any time, for no reason, with no recourse.

Harvey Wasserman edits  www.nukefree.org . His SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH is at  www.solartopia.org . The Solartopia Green Power & Wellness Show airs at  www.progressiveradionetwork.com .

HARVEY WASSERMAN'S HISTORY OF THE US is available at http://www.harveywasserman.com/, as is A GLIMPSE OF THE BIG LIGHT and clues to the whereabouts of the Holy Grail.

 

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Ferguson Grand Jury Verdict and Protests

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The transcript of Officer Darren Wilson’s testimony before the Grand Jury revealed much that seems to have gone under the radar of those that blame Blacks for protesting another unarmed youth killed by a police officer. Robert Reich’s comment strikes at the process by which Wilson was exonerated:(1) When there’s conflicting evidence about whether an unarmed person has been murdered by a police officer, a public jury trial is the appropriate process for determining guilt or innocence, not a grand jury in which there’s no opportunity to cross examine the accused.

 

(2) The role of the media isn’t to guess whether someone is guilty or innocent, or to give the accused free airtime to explain his side of the story (as did ABC this morning). It is to report the news.

 

(3) Poor, minority communities deserve community policing that builds trust, including minority police officers, rather than law enforcement that’s viewed by a community as repressive.

 

(4) Armed law enforcement personnel should be equipped with body cameras of the sort now used in many communities to assure responsible behavior.

(5) There is no excuse for looting, burning, or other forms of violence. Innocent people are harmed or killed. Communities may not recover for years. Trust is further destroyed.

The transcript of officer Wilson’s Grand Jury testimony struck me as a lawyer prepared defense that gave the jury little opportunity to do other than exonerate Wilson. Telling was the admission by Wilson that he did not write up an incident report as required by virtually all police departments when a fatality arises from a police confrontation with a member of the public. Instead Wilson called his lawyer fifteen minutes after the killing as Brown bled to death in the street where he lay for over four hours on his face. Never did an incident report ever surface in the grand jury proceeding and it appears from the news reports afterwards, against procedure, no incident report survived the incident even if he did write one.

After seeing his lawyer, and the three months before the grand jury heard the case presented by a long time advocate for the police, we hear Wilson say he was attacked by Brown with two punches to the face, and that Brown appeared to be a demon who was much bigger (both were 6' 4" but Brown was 60 pounds heavier) and stronger than Wilson who claims he feared another blow from this monster would kill him, so he shot him after the tussle. He even claimed Brown reached into the window of his police car and tried to grab his pistol. He said Brown had it pressing against his leg but miraculously was able to free it and tried to shoot Brown but the gun only clicked with no bullets fired until he tried again and shot Brown twice in the arm. That caused Brown to withdraw and move away. So Wilson followed and unloaded his gun on him as Brown supposedly turned on him again, charging with a demonic face. Not a part of the testimony but from a recording of the shooting it was clear that Wilson unloaded his pistol in a rapid machine gun like fashion. Other eye witnesses not called before the grand jury said Brown raised his hands before the volley and the final shot killed Brown to his head while he was on the ground.

Since there was no opportunity to cross examine the officer, the grand jury was presented with an officer armed with mace, who decided not to carry a taser gun because he didn’t want to. Both those alternatives would have prevented a killing. Of course after a few bullets hit Brown had Wilson stopped the rapid volley there was a good chance Brown would have survived. But this jury had no opportunity to hear Brown’s version because he was dead. His friend, an eye witness, had already made conflicting statements to the police and most likely would not have been believed.

Nevertheless, Eric Holder began a federal investigation of the police department at Ferguson and the Brown incident that could be the basis of a federal indictment where a jury would be impaneled and the witnesses subjected to cross examination to determine whether the Ferguson police department discriminately applied the law against Blacks and Wilson violated Brown’s constitutional rights.

 Daniel C. Lavery

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