Politics

Thumbnail image for Stories from the Weekend: NYC Cop Killing Brings Out the Fear Mongers

Stories from the Weekend: NYC Cop Killing Brings Out the Fear Mongers

by Doug Porter 12.22.2014 Columns

By Doug Porter

Two New York City policemen were gunned down in cold blood as they sat their patrol car in Brooklyn and Saturday. The gunman had a long history of mental illness and a criminal record to match. He used social media to brag about his murderous intent, saying it was revenge for police injustices.

Cable news networks and social media were all over it. It took about a half hour before I saw the first threats against Rev. Al Sharpton on Facebook. A rep for the NYPD union declared the city a war zone, blaming Mayor Bill de Blasio, saying he had blood on his hands. Former mayor Rudi Giuliani blamed the President and Attorney General. Fox News interspersed film clips of NYC protesters advocating violence with clips of an Al Sharpton speech in Washington.

The usual fear-mongers to wasted no time using these senseless deaths as an opportunity to denigrate those who’ve been protesting police shootings of civilians in recent months. There is, of course, no connection. But look for the nation’s press to back away from reporting on future protests. The taint is in the air, even if the facts don’t support the narrative.

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Thumbnail image for Stocking Stuffers, Lumps of Coal, and ‘Buy Nothing’ Christmas Gifts

Stocking Stuffers, Lumps of Coal, and ‘Buy Nothing’ Christmas Gifts

by Jim Miller 12.22.2014 Books & Poetry

By Jim Miller

As Christmas approaches along with the end of the year, it’s time to assess some of the best and the worst of 2014.

For those of you out there who just can’t jump on the “Buy Nothing Christmas” train, 2014 is a particularly good year to think about buying your friends and loved ones a book to stuff in their stocking.

This year saw the release of an unusual number of truly groundbreaking books that should inform serious intellectual discourse on the great issues of our day for years to come. So give the gift of knowledge rather than a shiny commodity fetish.

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Thumbnail image for As NYPD Union Vows ‘Wartime Policing,’ Questions Of ‘Have We Learned Nothing?’

As NYPD Union Vows ‘Wartime Policing,’ Questions Of ‘Have We Learned Nothing?’

by Source 12.22.2014 Activism

“An eye for an eye is not our vision of justice,” declared #BlackLivesMatter in a statement released Sunday

By Sarah Lazare / CommonDreams

A declaration by the New York Police Department Union that it will engage in “wartime policing” in response to Saturday’s killing of two city law enforcement officers has raised alarm among protesters and civil rights advocates, who ask: “Have we learned nothing?”

A statement released Saturday by the New York Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association—the union for the NYPD—reads, “The mayor’s hands are literally dripping with our blood because of his words actions and policies and we have, for the first time in a number of years, become a ‘wartime’ police department. We will act accordingly.”

Steven Thrasher, writing for the Guardian, responds, “Wartime? These are the marching orders to the 35,000 armed members of the biggest police department in the United States. This is the message now sent to protesters around the nation who have been finding novel and peaceful forms of expression to resist oppression—who have been protesting in reaction to police violence, not causing it.”

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Thumbnail image for The Best Reporting on Guns in America

The Best Reporting on Guns in America

by Source 12.20.2014 Gun Control

By Blair Hickman, Hanqing Chen, Cora Currier, Lois Beckett and Suevon Lee / ProPublica

Are Mass Shootings Increasing? Depends on How You Count Them

Criminologists have made the same point again and again: the number of mass shootings in America is not increasing. Experts told the Los Angeles Times that mass shootings represent only a small fraction of the annual deaths due to gun violence, and that police data indicate that the overall count of mass shootings per year has not shown any significant increase over time. This conclusion is based on the FBI’s broad definition of a mass murder: four or more people murdered in the same incident, typically in the same location.

But what if you focused just on shootings “in which the motive appeared to be indiscriminate mass murder”? Mother Jones decided to track the number of high-profile attacks in public places excluding armed robberies, gang shootings and domestic violence murders that happened within a home. Using this different definition—a controversial choice—Mother Jones concluded mass shootings are on the rise.

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Thumbnail image for Video Interview with Balboa Park Protestors about Justice and Race Relations

Video Interview with Balboa Park Protestors about Justice and Race Relations

by Horacio Jones 12.19.2014 Activism

By Horacio Jones

Since the grand jury decisions in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases, Americans have had to face the issues of race and police brutality once again. Many have taken to protesting as a way to have their voices heard. On December 13, 2014 there were numerous nationwide protests and I caught up with some of the protestors in Balboa Park to get their opinions on race relations with the police and what can be done to improve them.

No matter which side you are on, freedom of speech is paramount to the successful resolution of this obvious problem regarding police killing unarmed citizens.

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Thumbnail image for SDPD: Tell Us About Your Stingray Cell Phone Spy System

SDPD: Tell Us About Your Stingray Cell Phone Spy System

by Doug Porter 12.19.2014 Columns

By Doug Porter

A lawsuit filed by the First Amendment Coalition aimed at getting the San Diego Police Department to disclose how it uses cell phone tower simulators to collect data has been covered by multiple local news outlets over the past two days.

Two things strike me in studying these accounts: a mostly blind eye towards how this latest news fits into a pattern of opaqueness by the SDPD and  a lack of understanding about the true nature of the technology in question.

Today I’ll provide some analysis and information on those two points.

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Thumbnail image for Penis Control Before Gun Control

Penis Control Before Gun Control

by Will Falk 12.19.2014 Activism

By Will Falk

My position on gun control is simple. As long as the police, soldiers, and rapists have guns, we should have guns, too.

As long as one in four women in this country are raped in their lifetimes, women should have access to guns. As long as people of color are gunned down in the streets, they should be capable of defending themselves. As long as theft of native land continues alongside genocide of native peoples, they should be able to arm themselves against their invaders.

People – mainly white, male people – tell me that I take too extreme of a view. They tell me they just do not see the violence.

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Thumbnail image for The Horrifying Banality of Mass Shootings in America: 3 Shocking Facts About Gun Violence

The Horrifying Banality of Mass Shootings in America: 3 Shocking Facts About Gun Violence

by Source 12.19.2014 Gun Control

By Allegra Kirkland / AlterNet

By now, the cycle is familiar. One morning the news will light up with reports of a lone gunman wreaking havoc in a public place or a relative’s home. For days, left-wing politicians and grieving families will plead for common-sense gun control legislation, even as conservatives and NRA reps make their usual “gun’s don’t kill people, people do” stump speeches. Then, as quickly as the tragedy entered the public consciousness, it falls off the radar, forgotten until the next mass shooting occurs.

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Thumbnail image for Sony Pictures Cyber Attack: Pearl Harbor or Forrest Gump?

Sony Pictures Cyber Attack: Pearl Harbor or Forrest Gump?

by Doug Porter 12.18.2014 Business

By Doug Porter

Yesterday Sony Pictures did what many businesses would in similar circumstances – it assessed risks relative to reward and chose to pull the plug on a soon-to-be-released movie comedy, ‘The Interview.’

The $44 million film staring Seth Rogen and James Franco about an assassination attempt on North Korea’s leader was supposed to debut on Dec. 25, Christmas Day.

Now it’s dead in the water, with company reps saying, “Sony has no further release plans for the film.”

This decision was the end result of a hacking of Sony’s computer system by the “Guardians of Peace,” a group the US government says has links to North Korea. Unreleased films, company emails, employee information, threats to employees and their families and promises of violence against theaters and the public have all surfaced on the internet in recent days.

Today I’ll take a look at the implications of both the attack and Sony’s decision to capitulate.

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Thumbnail image for Why Do Democrats Keep Trying to Ban Guns That Look Scary, Not the Guns That Kill the Most People?

Why Do Democrats Keep Trying to Ban Guns That Look Scary, Not the Guns That Kill the Most People?

by Source 12.18.2014 Activism

On the twentieth anniversary of the assault weapons ban, a look at why politicians and the public support a policy that showed no evidence of saving lives.

by Lois Beckett / ProPublica

This story was co-published with the New York Times.

Over the past two decades, the majority of Americans in a country deeply divided over gun control have coalesced behind a single proposition: The sale of assault weapons should be banned.

That idea was one of the pillars of the Obama administration’s plan to curb gun violence, and it remains popular with the public. In a poll last December, 59 percent of likely voters said they favor a ban.

But in the 10 years since the previous ban lapsed, even gun control advocates acknowledge a larger truth: The law that barred the sale of assault weapons from 1994 to 2004 made little difference.

It turns out that big, scary military rifles don’t kill the vast majority of the 11,000 Americans murdered with guns each year. Little handguns do.

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Thumbnail image for Cuba Sí! Decades of Failed Foreign Policy Comes to an End

Cuba Sí! Decades of Failed Foreign Policy Comes to an End

by Doug Porter 12.17.2014 Columns

By Doug Porter

A mutual release of prisoners today marks beginning of the end of the United States embargo against the island nation of Cuba. Cuba released jailed American Alan Gross along with an unnamed non-American intelligence ‘asset.’  The US released three Cubans accused of running a spy operation in the South Florida expatriate community.

The Associated Press reports the two governments are starting talks on normalizing full diplomatic relations; trade and banking ties are will be at the top of the agenda. Observers expect each country to try to open embassies in each other’s capitals during 2015.

While these actions are not part of any overall shift in US foreign policy, the repercussions throughout the hemisphere will be reminiscent of the establishment of normalized relations with China in the 1970’s. It’s a big deal. A really big deal.

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Thumbnail image for In Demanding Apologies, Police Unions Show White Supremacy is a Core Value

In Demanding Apologies, Police Unions Show White Supremacy is a Core Value

by Source 12.17.2014 Activism

By Shaun King / Daily Kos

Racism has a hard time hiding.

People love to deny its very existence, but it just has a way of telling on itself. Those who harbor prejudice on the inside eventually can’t help but let it out in a way, so ugly and toxic, that you soon wonder how they kept it disguised for as long as they had.

The leaked emails from Sony come to mind.

While the overwhelming majority of African Americans see some level of racial discrimination and devaluing of black life in the police murders of unarmed men like Akai Gurley, Kendrec McDade, and Eric Garner, it’s become far too easy for police (and society) to deny race played even a small role in any of these homicides.

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Thumbnail image for The Best Reporting on PTSD in Children Exposed to Violence

The Best Reporting on PTSD in Children Exposed to Violence

by Source 12.17.2014 Gun Control

By Lois Beckett / ProPublica

Updated Sept. 19, 2014 with new stories; originally published June 24, 2014.

When people think of post-traumatic stress disorder, they often focus on military veterans. But there’s growing evidence that PTSD is also a serious problem for American civilians, especially those exposed to violence in their own neighborhoods. Researchers in Atlanta found that 1 out of 3 inner-city residents they interviewed had experienced symptoms consistent with PTSD at some point in their lives. Earlier this month, we published a new story on an Oakland family struggling with PTSD after two young children, ages six and one, witnessed their mother being shot.

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Thumbnail image for The City Council’s Symbolic Re-Vote on Lightner as President

The City Council’s Symbolic Re-Vote on Lightner as President

by Doug Porter 12.16.2014 Business

By Doug Porter

It’s business as usual in San Diego. Amid concerns that last week’s city council election of Sheri Lightner as president, may have followed meetings in violation of the Brown Act, a special meeting has been called today to affirm the decision.

NBC7 reported last week on what might be “serial meetings,” one-on-one private sessions involving six council members. They passed on the findings to the City Attorney’s office.

Since that decision Councilwoman Lightner has been acting as president. I believe her election was orchestrated by local business interests as retaliation for Councilman Todd Gloria aggressive support of a local minimum wage ordinance.

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Thumbnail image for The Gun Death Capital of the World – United States of America

The Gun Death Capital of the World – United States of America

by John Lawrence 12.16.2014 Government

By John Lawrence

The US leads the world in deaths from firearms. Countries like Great Britain and Japan, which outlaw guns, have hardly any gun related deaths.

These countries don’t have the “freedom” to own a gun. We Americans are free to own a gun and free to go bankrupt from medical debts. In countries like Britain and Japan they are not free to go bankrupt from medical debt because they have national health care systems which prevent that from happening.

Freedom is relative isn’t it, and open to interpretation. One person’s freedom is another person’s bondage. As Janis Joplin sang, “Freedom’s just another name for nothing left to lose.”

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Thumbnail image for SDFP Editors Debate To Publish or Not to Publish a Submission

SDFP Editors Debate To Publish or Not to Publish a Submission

by Staff 12.16.2014 Activism

An open letter from Dr. Fredi Avalos generates discussion on SDFP’s role in critiquing the Left and movement building

By San Diego Free Press Editorial Board

How do we reconcile our differences on the Left to more effectively fight a common enemy?

The San Diego Free Press does not publish every work that is submitted. The four daily editors determine whether a submission meets our criteria for quality of writing and compatibility with our mission of providing grassroots news and progressive views.

There have been a few times when we have declined to publish articles that were articulate and authored by respected members of the SDFP community of contributors and readers. When this occurs, it is a result of discussion and a final vote of the full editorial board, in which the majority position is reflected and the contributor is advised of our decision.

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Thumbnail image for Newtown Families Sue AR-15 Gun Maker

Newtown Families Sue AR-15 Gun Maker

by Doug Porter 12.15.2014 Activism

By Doug Porter

It’s been two years and a day since the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut left 26 people, mostly first graders, dead. The school has been torn down. The house where the shooter lived will soon meet the same fate.

The troubled 20-year-old gunman shot his way into the school. He shot and killed his mother before driving to the school, and he committed suicide as police arrived. The shootings at the school, lasting just over four minutes, were possible thanks to the military-style weapon used.

This morning a law firm representing the families of nine of the 26 people killed and a teacher filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer, distributor and seller of the rifle used in the shooting.


Welcome to Guns, Policy and Progressives week at the San Diego Free Press. We’ll be talking about guns and their role in society. Provided you can be civil about it, we invite you to join the conversation.

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Thumbnail image for On Torture: Deeper into the American Heart of Darkness

On Torture: Deeper into the American Heart of Darkness

by Jim Miller 12.15.2014 Columns

By Jim Miller

A couple of weeks ago I evoked Joseph Conrad’s classic critique of colonialism when discussing the disposability of black and brown lives in the wake of Ferguson and our collective ability to dehumanize or “thingify” black and brown people at home and abroad.

As I observed then, “in Conrad’s classic novel Heart of Darkness we are taken on a journey into the core of the European colonial enterprise. And while the naïve reader may expect an adventure in the ‘savage’ world of Africa, what one quickly discovers is that it is the ‘hollow men’ of Europe bent on the ruthless exploitation of the land and the people who are the real savages, whose moral emptiness and desire to ‘exterminate the brutes’ is the actual horror.”

Well, sadly, last week the Senate report on torture officially revealed that “we are the hollow men” to steal a line from T.S. Eliot, “the stuffed men” whose lips “form prayers to broken stone.”

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Thumbnail image for Washington State Voters Overwhelmingly Approved Citizens’ Initiative to Expand Background Checks to All Gun Sales

Washington State Voters Overwhelmingly Approved Citizens’ Initiative to Expand Background Checks to All Gun Sales

by Source 12.15.2014 Activism

By Jennifer Fuson / The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

Washington, D.C. – In the only place where guns were directly on the ballot this election day, Washington state voters overwhelmingly passed Initiative 594 to expand background checks to all gun sales, including online and at gun shows. A competing initiative (Initiative 591) designed to block the implementation of background checks and sponsored by the gun lobby failed 55 to 45%.

Washington became the seventh state to require background checks on all gun sales, the fifth state since the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012 (Washington, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, and New York).

“The bottom line is this law will save lives. Washingtonians should sleep better tonight knowing that their state will be a safer place thanks to expanded Brady background checks,” said Brady Campaign President Dan Gross.

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Thumbnail image for A Call for Councilwoman Zapf to Do the Right Thing

A Call for Councilwoman Zapf to Do the Right Thing

by Lori Saldaña 12.15.2014 Government

When you were elected to the San Diego City Council 4 years ago, to represent my Clairemont neighborhood, I was willing to give you a chance.

After all, you claimed to be sensitive to working class issues, as asmall business owner. And you have mentioned having Mexican-American family members, which made me hopeful you would find common ground with the growing Latino community in my native Clairemont.

But this week, your staff’s comments about how she “wanted to shoot” the “… idiot” protesters at a City Council event displayed a shocking lack of awareness about public safety, civil disobedience, efforts to achieve social justice, and the constitutional right of Americans to use peaceful protest to communicate with elected officials.

And what makes this latest situation even worse: it was the SECOND time a member of your staff displayed this tone deaf, cavalier disrespect towards public protest.

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Thumbnail image for From Boston to San Diego, 12/13/14 Was A Day of Resistance

From Boston to San Diego, 12/13/14 Was A Day of Resistance

by Doug Porter 12.13.2014 Activism

By Doug Porter

Thousands of people took to the streets on Saturday in cities all over the US. The mass media is telling people these protests are in response to recent grand jury decisions regarding the deaths of black men at the hands of police officers. It’s bigger than that.

They really ought to be saying lots of people are sick and tired of being sick and tired of racism in the US of A. They’re sick and tired of hearing excuses. They’re sick and tired of being treated like second class citizens. And most of all they’re sick and tired of injustice at the hands of a legal system that claims to be color blind.

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Thumbnail image for The Season for Mindless Consumerism

The Season for Mindless Consumerism

by Source 12.13.2014 Culture

This Christmas, put your money to better use than thoughtless gift-giving.

By  / OtherWords

‘Tis the season for mindless consumerism.

I love giving gifts when they’re from the heart. But I hate giving or receiving presents if they’re things nobody needs, given out of a sense of obligation.

Here’s a story that illustrates what I mean. Back in college, a friend of mine approached me and said, “I just want to give you a heads up, my new girlfriend bought you a gift.”

Uh-oh, I thought. I didn’t even get him a gift, let alone her. But without missing a beat, I replied, “Oh, that’s so sweet! Well, I got her something too.”

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Thumbnail image for Bankers, Pot Smokers Get Holiday Gifts in DC Budget Bill

Bankers, Pot Smokers Get Holiday Gifts in DC Budget Bill

by Doug Porter 12.12.2014 Business

By Doug Porter

The The Grinch was alive and well yesterday as the House of Representatives passed a compromise “CRomnibus.” The word is politi-speak for a combined continuing resolution (to keep funding the government) and omnibus (comprehensive budget) legislation.

A rebellion on both sides of the aisle nearly blocked passage of the bill. Conservatives wanted to make more of a statement about the President’s executive order on immigration. Progressives were steamed about language –actually written by lobbyists–rolling back financial industry reforms put into place following the 2009 economic collapse.

But there’s so much more to see here. In these days of Congressional gridlock and Obama derangement syndrome, a bi-partisan leadership group (House Republicans and Senate Democrats) deemed it necessary to drop a document bigger than War and Peace on Tuesday,  expecting a vote in less than 72 hours.

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Thumbnail image for ‘Just Call Me Todd’ Gloria Gets the Boot as City Council President

‘Just Call Me Todd’ Gloria Gets the Boot as City Council President

by Doug Porter 12.11.2014 Business

By Doug Porter

Depending on who you talk to, the City Council’s 7-2 vote yesterday to elect District One’s Democrat Sherri Lightner as President over Todd Gloria was either a victory for evil reactionaries or the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.

Looking at the two Councilpersons voting records prior to 2014, there doesn’t seem to be much of an ideological difference. The San Diego Labor Council declined to endorse both Gloria (rated by them at 60%) and Lightner (54%) in the 2012 election. So what’s the big deal?

Today we’ll take a look at the debate this decision by the council has spawned and my best guess as to what the consequences will be.

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Thumbnail image for SDSU Students Fight Fraternity Rape Culture

SDSU Students Fight Fraternity Rape Culture

by Doug Porter 12.10.2014 Activism

By Doug Porter

Students at San Diego State University participated in a march and sit-in on Tuesday, demanding the school take action in response to sexual assaults and harassment. The protest was triggered by reports of people associated with fraternity houses yelling  obscenities, waving dildos and throwing eggs at a Nov. 21st  anti-rape march called Take Back the Night.

Their demands included an open forum with  SDSU President Elliot Hirshman during the spring semester, along with the resignations of fraternity members of the Sigma Phi Epsilon and Delta Sigma Phi from various posts on the campus. The protesters cited the need for a planned Women’s Resource Center to serve as a rape crisis center and for CSU and UC colleges to release all statistical data on the investigation, adjudication and sanction of cases involving sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking.

As is the case with police-linked killings around the country, the protests are the local manifestation of a much larger problem, and today I’ll try to give this story some context.

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